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Labour’s plan to impose VAT on private school fees descended into chaos today as the shadow education secretary said another frontbencher was wrong to say the policy risked increasing class sizes in the state sector. 

Emily Thornberry, the shadow attorney general, said yesterday that “if we have to, in the short term, have larger classes, we have larger classes” amid fears the policy could prompt a pupil exodus. 

But Bridget Phillipson said this morning that her Labour shadow cabinet colleague “just wasn’t right”. 

Asked if the private schools policy would see state class sizes go up, Ms Phillipson told Times Radio: “No, I don’t accept that. That is not what the Institute for Fiscal Studies said on our policy. They were clear that our policy would raise £1.3 to £1.5 billion net. 

“They anticipated little effect in terms of movement from the private sector into the state sector and this is about making sure that our state schools have got the teachers and the mental health support that they need.”

Told that Ms Thornberry had suggested it was possible that class sizes could increase, Ms Phillipson said: “Well, I am afraid that just wasn’t right and actually what we are seeing across the state sector is a falling number of pupils in our classrooms because of the falling birth rate and there are fewer young people arriving at schools.”

Ms Phillipson said she would be “happy” to talk to Ms Thornberry and correct her because “that isn’t the position that we see at the moment”.

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