At this time of the electoral cycle, with Labour apparently heading for a convincing victory at the next general election, private education always seems to become a political football.

It's actually a subject of supreme indifference for most people - most families cannot contemplate the fees that most independent schools charge.

But for those directly affected it is a matter of supreme importance and always seems to have the capablitiy of whipping up emotions.

I have to declare an interest here. I was educated at Framlingham College. I enjoyed (most of) my schooldays, made friends for life and still retain a strong affection for the place and my time there.

Times were different when I was there from the late 60s to mid-70s. It was a direct grant school (abolished by Labour in 1975) and the regime was more spartan than it is now. 

But turning the clock forward 50 years I must admit I am conflicted on the subject of private education.

Across the UK about 6% of children are educated privately - and it is absolutely clear that the education they get gives them an advantage in life. 

If it didn't why on earth would their parents pay out more than the average salary of the British worker for them to get that education over a period of many years?

Labour is now proposing changing the rules so fees attract VAT - effectively putting a 20% surcharge on them.

This has caused the head of my former school to warn that this could force cash-strapped parents to withdraw their children and put pressure on the state sector.

I see her point, and a 20% hike in fees would be very tough for many of the parents they serve.

But I really cannot see why school fees should be exempt from VAT when everyone has to pay it on most other purchases.

Having said that large independent schools like Framlingham College, Woodbridge School, Culford in west Suffolk and St Felix in Reydon are very important for the communities they operate in - and apart from anything else provide a large number of good jobs.

That's also true of those in large centres like Ipswich School and St Joseph's College. I understand the concerns among parents and school staff that a 20% VAT imposition would cause.

One possible solution would be to bring in VAT - but stagger it over a number of years, say 5% in 2025, 10% in 2026, 15% in 2027 and the full rate by 2028.

That way parents would know what was coming down the line, schools would be able to budget and there would not a cliff-edge for anyone to face.

So that deals with the practicalities, but what about the principal of private education?

Let's be clear, as long as independent schools exist full equality of opportunity will be an impossible dream.

Tuition fees for independent senior schools range between £20,000 - £25,000 a year. According to the Department for Education the average across the country in state education last year was about £7,500.

That kind of difference is bound to have an impact on the standard of education - a brilliant teacher in the private sector is likely to have access to better equipment than a brilliant teacher in the state system, and have fewer students in the class.

I don't see it is realistic to expect that the resources put into state education will match those of the private sector so that difference will always remain.

And I cannot see how it would be right to ban private education - would it be right to tell wealthy parents that they can spend tens of thousands on extravagent holidays for their children, but not to spend it on their education?

The Labour Party's plans for private education do look right so far as VAT is concerned - but perhaps a staggered introduction would help ease the immediate fears.