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Professionals risk being priced out of private schools as fees triple since 1990

Joanna Faith
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Joanna Faith

Wealthy parents risk being priced out of the private school system as fees continue to rise, a study reveals.

Independent day school fees have risen by £471 in 2015 to £13,194, while boarding schools now stand at £30,369 per year.

This increase means the average day school fee is now 342% higher than it was in 1990, and could rise by a further 105% by 2028, if current trends continue, the report by wealth manager Killik & Co and the Centre for Economics and Business Research said.

Over an education of fourteen years, the total cost of day school now stands at around £286,000, up from £271,000 in 2014, while total average boarding costs have risen from £435,000 to £468,000 over the last year.

Despite spiralling costs, the prestige of private schools remains important for many parents.

In a survey of parents who privately educate their children, over a third (37.2%) said they see private education as an ‘investment priority’ with 34% stating that the attraction of smaller class sizes was a major consideration.

Almost a quarter said they sent their children to private school for ‘the connections my children will get’ (24.8%) and ‘either myself or a member of my family went there’ (18%), showing the strong role that tradition and reputation has to play in these decisions.

Even with two parents working, as fees outpace earnings, many professionals are now unable to afford private schooling. With total annual costs now worth 38% of a doctor’s disposable salary and 59% of an accountant’s, it is clear that many professionals who traditionally sent their children to private school may struggle. For members of the clergy, the outlook is concerning, as by 2028 it is expected that 122% of their income would be taken up by private school fees.

The regional gap has also widened across the UK, with London remaining the most expensive region and also rising at the fastest rate (from £14,800 in 2014 to £15,500 in 2015). The South East is home to the second most expensive day schools in the country, costing the average parent £14,350, while the North of England and Scotland offer the lowest fees, coming in at £10,400 and £10,750 respectively.

Sarah Lord, managing director of Killik Financial Planners, said: “The cost of private education is eye watering for many families. However, over a third of parents responded that investment in education is one of the best investments they can make. One thing is clear, meeting the costs of a private education needs careful planning as early as possible and families should investigate all the options – whether that be through a bursary, staying at ‘state school until 8’ or by asking grandparents for help”.

Of course, private education is not going to be viable for everybody. For some it will make much more sense to opt for a good state school and invest the money elsewhere. Indeed, fourteen years of day school fees from 2015 could be invested over this time to build a potential sum of around £800,000, which would help children later on in life, whether that be funding university, buying a house, or securing a comfortable retirement.”