Private school fees soar by 24% in five years

Almost one in four children in Edinburgh attend private school. Picture: TSPL
Almost one in four children in Edinburgh attend private school. Picture: TSPL
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THE cost of sending a child to private school in the UK has risen by 24 per cent in the past five years, according to a new survey.

Research carried out on behalf of Lloyds Bank found concern among parents that many will not be able to afford the cost of tuition in coming years.

However, the vast majority of those polled said their final decision about which school to send their child to was not ­motivated by cost.

More than 1,100 people across the UK were surveyed by YouGov, with 37 per cent admitting they had considered taking their child out of private education due to high costs.

However, the Scottish Council for Independent Schools (SCIS) said the findings did not represent the majority of schools north of the Border, where fees have risen by an average of 2 to 3 per cent in recent years.

More than half (57 per cent) of those polled by YouGov expressed concern at not being able to meet the cost of fees in the future, while 38 per cent had struggled to meet payment deadlines.

Sarah Deaves, investment advice and private clients director at Lloyds, said: “The survey ­suggests that many parents don’t want money to be a key consideration in their children’s education. But a lack of planning could lead to financial problems that may cause them to consider ­taking their children out of private schooling.

“With the increased pressure on family budgets, even relatively wealthy parents are feeling the strain of rising school fees, but there are a range of options that can help them plan their finances which could help ease this burden.

“It’s worth saving as early as possible for these costs, before children are in full-time education. I’d always recommend consulting a financial adviser who can look at a family’s overall financial circumstances to help you build a plan that aims to make costs more manageable.”

Those taking part in the survey said that while cost remained a consideration, the most important factors in school choice were facilities and the quality of teaching. Only 2 per cent of respondents cited lower fees as playing a key role.

John Edward, director of the SCIS, said the findings applied to less than half of schools in ­Scotland.

“The key point is that this is based on ISC (Independent Schools Council) schools, which only represent less than half of the schools in Scotland, and is composed mainly of the highest fee, most competitive boarding schools down south,” he said. “Fees here have not risen by more than 2 to 3 per cent on average in recent years.

“This selection of schools is not representative of the picture in Scotland, where fee levels have kept closely in touch with inflation. Almost 80 per cent of parental fees are spent directly on staff salaries and utilities. In addition, Scottish schools are legally required to disburse a percentage of their income in means-tested assistance, unlike down south.

“Indeed, some schools have frozen or lowered their fees in recent years, reflecting the fact that schools are acutely aware of the pressures that families are under. This is borne out by the strong interest that schools are experiencing at all age levels.”

The findings of the annual census by SCIS, which was published in September, showed there are 28,917 children in mainstream private schools in Scotland, down only 0.4 per cent on the previous year, despite pressure on family budgets.

However, despite attempts to revive the fortunes of boarding schools, the number of pupils there fell by 1.2 per cent when compared with the previous year. According to the figures, there were 3,185 boarding pupils, compared with 3,224 in 2012-13 and 3,300 in 2011-12.

Around one in every 20 child- ren in Scotland attends an ­independent school, although the number in Edinburgh is nearer one in four.

While term fees vary, parents typically pay between £10,000 and £20,000 a year to send their child to an independent secondary school.