BANKING ON TALENT – Affording school fees is becoming increasingly difficult as they rise more rapidly than wages and scholarships shrink. Gillian Upton advises on the options open to ease the financial pain.
It is some consolation to parents across the UK that this year saw the lowest increase in school fees since 1994. However, the average hike of 3.5% (in line with last year) masks the fact that rises in school fees are dramatically outstripping those in parents’ earnings.
This is the scenario despite an increasing amount of fee assistance to help reduce the pain. It doesn’t help either that the middle classes are being priced out of the top private schools by international students, whose parents pay huge fees.
Drill down into the statistics region by region and the picture for parents in Greater London is even more challenging as they have been hit hardest, with a 4.2% hike in fees, the highest in the country. Fees in the north of England are the lowest in the country.
“For many families, a private education is now only affordable where both parents are working,” concludes investment house Killik & Co from their 2015 Private Education Index. The company goes further and questions whether the amounts that parents are spending on their children’s education – more than í286,000 over 14 years – would not be better being invested to set them up financially for life, while sending their child to a good state school.
Killik also says that private schools will have to think about rebalancing student bodies not rooted in their own area which are outweighed by pupils from the international community.
More than 1850 million was provided in fee assistance for pupils at member schools of the Independent Schools Council (ISC), which collates annual statistics. That represents an increase of 2.6% compared to 2015. Almost half of the fee assistance came from means-tested bursaries.
Bursaries are one of the favoured routes for parents to try when paying for school fees. It does mean submitting company accounts, pay slips, home valuations and the like to prove income, assets and net disposable income. But laying yourself bare may be the price to be paid for a reduction in school fees of anywhere between 10 and 75%.
Ardingly College’s Head Ben Figgis says that his West Sussex school is particularly generous with bursaries at 16+ entry, often offering 100%. A fifth of all Ardingly’s students are on either scholarships or bursaries.
DID YOU KNOW…
…THAT THE AVERAGE DAY SCHOOL IN LONDON COSTS £5,500 PER TERM,
COMPARED TO £3,500 PER TERM IN WALES?
SOURCE: 2016 CENSUS FROM THE INDEPENDENT SCHOOLS COUNCIL (ISC)
Closer to home, Emanuel uses its bursary fund to top up scholarships to 100%. Meanwhile, Dulwich College offers a wide range of schemes to ease the pain of school fees. Aside from scholarships and bursaries, it offers a discount in return for paying fees annually in advance. Some 30% of students receive financial assistance, including 30 boys on full-fee relief. The goal is to reach 50%. Of the new boys joining the College this month, 25% are in receipt of bursaries ranging from 75% to 100%.
DID YOU KNOW…
…THAT FEES AT INDEPENDENT DAY SCHOOLS HAVE MORE THAN QUADRUPLED SINCE 1990?
FEES HAVE INCREASED AHEAD OF EARNINGS EVERY YEAR SINCE THEN