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Where Sunak, Starmer, Farage and the other party leaders went to school

Education will be a key issue during this election campaign as Labour vows to impose 20 per cent VAT on private schools and a report warns of soaring state school budget costs.

One of Labour’s flagship policies if it wins on the 4 July is to impose the standard rate of 20 per cent VAT on private schools, sparking fears that it will have a knock-on effect for fees.

Meanwhile, a report released by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) this week has estimated state schools’ costs will grow by 4 per cent in 2024.

Britain's Prime Minister Rishi Sunak attends a commemorative ceremony marking the 80th anniversary of the World War II D-Day" Allied landings in Normandy, at the World War II British Normandy Memorial of Ver-sur-Mer, Thursday, June 6, 2024. Normandy is hosting various events to officially commemorate the 80th anniversary of the D-Day landings that took place on June 6, 1944. (Ludovic Marin/Pool via AP)
Rishi Sunak attended the prestigious public school Winchester College (Photo: Ludovic Marin/ AFP/AP)

It pushes the question of schools front and centre for the leaders of each of the main parties.

We take a look at where their own school stories began and what they had to say about their education.

Where did Rishi Sunak go to school?

Born in Southampton, Rishi Sunak was privately educated throughout his schools years before heading to Oxford to study Philosophy, Politics and Economic (PPE) and then Stanford University in the US.

He initially attended Stroud School, a preparatory school in Romsey, Hampshire before joining independent boarding school Winchester College as a day boy, where fees start at £36,369 per year. He eventually became head boy.

Founded in 1382, it is one of the oldest public schools and has educated the likes of former Home Secretary William Whitelaw, Nobel prize-winning physicist David J. Thouless and comedian Tim Brooke-Taylor.

Students walking to lessons inside the private and exclusive Winchester College one of the country's top schools, Winchester city, UK (Photo by In Pictures Ltd./Corbis via Getty Images)
Winchester College’s former pupils include comedian Tim Brooke-Taylor (Photo: Christopher Pillitz/ In Pictures Ltd./Corbis/Getty) Images)

Speaking about his own schooling, Mr Sunak said: “My parents sacrificed a great deal so I could attend good schools.

“I was lucky to study at Winchester College, Oxford University and Stanford University.

“That experience changed my life and as a result I am passionate about ensuring everybody has access to a great education.”

Where did Sir Keir Starmer go to school?

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer was born in London and grew up in Hurst Green, near Oxted Surrey.

The son of a toolmaker and a nurse, he attended the local primary school along with his three siblings then became the only member of his family to pass the 11-plus to attend Reigate Grammar School.

During his time there, it became an independent fee-paying although boys already attending such as Sir Keir did not have to pay.

Fellow alumni include DJ Norman Cook (Fatboy Slim), survival expert Ray Mears and comedian Romesh Ranganathan.

PORTSMOUTH, ENGLAND - JUNE 5: Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer attends a commemorative event marking the 80th anniversary Of D-Day in Southsea Common on June 5, 2024 in Portsmouth, England. King Charles III and Queen Camilla lead the commemorative events in Portsmouth ahead of the actual 80th Anniversary of D-Day on June 6th. Veterans, VIP Guests and school children are attending an event on Southsea Common. Portsmouth was where tens of thousands of troops set off to Normandy to participate in Operation Overlord. They established a foothold on the French coast and advanced to liberate northwest Europe.(Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)
Sir Keir Starmer attended Reigate Grammar School, a fee-paying independent school.(Photo: Leon Neal/Getty)

A talented musician who played flute, piano and violin, Sir Keir also attended the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London at the weekend.

After he left Reigate, he went on to study law at the University of Leeds earning a first-class degree and then did a postgraduate Bachelor of Civil law course at the University of Oxford before embarking on his legal career.

Sir Keir has returned to his alma mater in Reigate since leaving to give a speech recalling “fond memories” of his time there and contributing to a bursary for the school.

Asked recently about whether he thought it was wrong for people to use their wealth to “jump the queue” in education, he said: “I’m not going to criticise anybody who wants to send their children to private school.

“I understand many families work hard, save hard in order to be able to do so.”

Where did Nigel Farage go to school?

Originally from Farnborough in Kent, Reform UK leader Nigel Farage started his secondary education at Greenhayes School for Boys, a grammar school in West Wickham.

But from 1975 until 1982, he attended prestigious Dulwich College in south London. Here he recalled in his autobiography he received careers advice to become an auctioneer from his careers master and former England cricketer John Dewes.

Mr Farage said he “must have spotted that I was quite ballsy, probably good on a platform, unafraid of the limelight, a bit noisy and good at selling things”.

He added: “All of those traits were identified, nurtured and promoted at Dulwich College.

“I owe that school an enormous debt.”

Honorary President of the Britain's right-wing populist party Reform UK and newly appointed leader Nigel Farage speaks during a campaign meeting, on June 3, 2024, ahead of the UK general election of July 4. (Photo by HENRY NICHOLLS / AFP) (Photo by HENRY NICHOLLS/AFP via Getty Images)
Reform UK leader Nigel Farage attended prestigious South London school Dulwich College. (Photo: Henry Nicholls/AFP/Getty)

Dulwich College boasts explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton, writer P.G. Wodehouse, former governor of the Bank of England Sir Edward George and actor Nicholas Galitzine among its alumni.

While there his appointment as a prefect was called into question by an English teacher citing concerns expressed by others about alleged “fascist” views.

Headmaster David Emms rejected those concerns as did the deputy head Terry Walsh who was reported to have said Farage “was well-known for provoking people, especially left-wing English teachers who had no sense of humour”.

Unlike all his fellow political party leaders, Mr Farage did not go to university but became a trader on the London Metal Exchange.

Where did Sir Ed Davey go to school?

Liberal Democrats leader Sir Ed Davey grew-up in Nottinghamshire and in common with Sunak, Starmer and Farage he was privately educated.

He attended Nottingham High School, a private school in the city and eventually became head boy.

EMBARGOED TO 2230 FRIDAY MAY 17 File photo dated 02/05/24 of Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey. He has said that the SNP's "carousel of chaos" is preventing the Scottish Government from tackling issues such as a "crisis" in mental health care, insisting that a focus on party leadership has left the SNP unable to deal with "real and serious issues". Issue date: Friday May 17, 2024. PA Photo. See PA story POLITICS Davey. Photo credit should read: Yui Mok/PA Wire
Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey grew up in Nottinghamshire and attended Nottingham High School, (Photo: Yui Mok/PA)

After studying A-Levels in German, French and History, he went on to the University of Oxford where he gained a first-class honours degree in Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE) and then a masters in Economics from Birkbeck College, London.

His childhood was marred by the death of his father when he was just four years old and his mother when he was 15. He and his brothers were then raised by their maternal grandparents.

He admitted in an interview in Loose Women in 2022 that he sometimes felt “isolated” during his school days because of his role at home as a carer for his mother Nina Davey.

He said: “At school I think one or two friends knew about it, but there was a sense of slightly being isolated or different.”

Where did Carla Denyer go to school?

Green party-co-leader Carla Denyer is from the South East and is an engineer by trade.

She has said in the past that her political campaigning began when she was in sixth form, getting involved in campaigns to promote fair trade and stop the war in Iraq.

After school, she studied mechanical engineering at St Chad’s College, Durham University.

And it was during her time at university she said she became interested in environmental activism.

Green Party co-leader Carla Denyer speaking during the Green Party General Election campaign launch at St George's Bristol. Picture date: Thursday May 30, 2024. PA Photo. See PA story POLITICS Election Greens. Photo credit should read: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire
Green Party co-leader Carla Denyer studied mechanical engineering before going into politics. (Photo: Jonathan Brady/PA)

She moved to Bristol after university in 2009 and worked for a renewable energy consultancy then moved into local politics becoming a city councillor in 2015.

She told the Bristol Post: “I realised that in my engineering job, as worthwhile as it was, I was only really changing the world one wind turbine at a time and I wanted to get involved in policy so that I could change government policy and really accelerate the pace of change.”

Where did Adrian Ramsay go to school?

Felloe Green Party leader Adrian Ramsay was born and raised in Norwich and attended the City of Norwich School, a former grammar school which became a comprehensive in 1970.

He joined the Green Party while still at school, at the age of 16.

HARROGATE, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 30: Green party co-leader Adrian Ramsay delivers a speech during the Green Party???s conference at the Harrogate Convention Centre on September 30, 2022 in Harrogate, England. Co-leader's Carla Denyer and Adrian Ramsay used the Greens??? annual conference in Harrogate to unveil details of a wealth tax that would pay for policies, including insulating millions of homes. (Photo by Ian Forsyth/Getty Images)
Green Party co-leader Adrian Ramsay went to the the state comprehensive City of Norwich School. (Photo: Ian Forsyth/Getty)

Remaining in Norfolk for university, he studied politics and sociology at the University of East Anglia (UEA) where he gained a first class honours degree. He went on to gain a master’s degree and later lectured in environmental politics and economics.

After leaving university, he was elected to Norwich City Council starting his political career at the age of just 21.

Where did John Swinney go to school?

John Swinney became the leader of the Scottish National Party (SNP) once again last month but has a long association with the political party and a lifetime in Scottish politics.

Born and raised in Edinburgh, he is a former pupil of Forrester High School, a secondary in the west of the city which claims footballer Graeme Souness and Bay City Roller band member Les McKeown among its alumni.

Scottish National Party Leader John Swinney during the SNP General Election Campaign launch with SNP Westminster candidates and activists at the Radisson Blu Hotel in Glasgow. Picture date: Sunday June 2, 2024. PA Photo. See PA story POLITICS Election Swinney. Photo credit should read: Jane Barlow/PA Wire
Scottish National Party Leader John Swinney attended the same school in Edinburgh as footballer Graeme Souness. (Photo: Jane Barlow/PA)

Mr Swinney joined the SNP, while still at school at the age of 15, and became a prominent figure in its youth wing.

He studied politics at the University of Edinburgh and once admitted he worked as a bouncer during his student days.

After university, he toyed with the idea of becoming a history teacher but eventually became an MP in 1997.

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