How expensive are private schools?

Breaking down the real costs of sending your child to private school.

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For some, the value of a good education is immeasurable – but the question is, how much are you willing to pay for it? If you are considering sending your child to a private school, do you know the true cost? Not only are there school fees to consider, but added extras such as registration fees, and funds to cover things like outings, uniforms and clubs.

It often feels hard to tie down a figure, but we’re here to give you an overall view of the costs you can expect if you choose to go private.

School fees

The biggest outlay when sending your child to private school is the school fees. Obviously, these fees can vary from school to school, with factors such as location and facilities playing a major role in how much you will be charged. However, based on the Independent Schools Council (ISC) Census 2019, on average, you can expect to pay £11,565 per term for boarding (if needed), £6,402 per term for a day pupil at a boarding school and £4,763 a term for a pupil at a day only school. 

These figures are the average per term across the 1,307 schools that participated in the census. Obviously, if you are considering a school in the centre of London, you should expect the fees to be higher, or if you are looking at well-known schools such as Eton or Harrow, you should be prepared for fees to be higher still.

Private school fees have risen faster than inflation every year for the past 10 years, therefore it is best to be prepared for further increases in the future. Another thing to note is whether or not your chosen school requires you to pay per term or per year, as this will impact how much money you need to commit up front.

Additional costs

Unfortunately the cost of private school does not stop at school fees. There are additional costs that are worth considering in your budget calculations.

Firstly, expect to put down some sort of non-refundable registration fee and a deposit when you secure your place at the school. How much this is will very much depend on your chosen school.

Secondly, you will probably need to factor in an extra 10% on top of the school fees in order to cover additional costs that come with a child attending private school. This will cover things such as school trips, uniforms, after school clubs, sport equipment, music lessons and, in some cases, lunches. When looking into a school, look at what is actually covered by the fees you will be paying and ask exactly what the extras will be.

Where to save money

There is no way around it: private schools are expensive – and with only 7% of British children attending a fee-paying school, they certainly aren’t for everyone. But if a private school is something that you are considering for your children, here are some ways to make the costs more manageable.

School fee plan – If the idea of a large upfront cost for the year seems a bit daunting, maybe look to see if your chosen school offers a school fee plan. This is something that will allow you to pay the fees on a monthly or termly basis, helping to break down the cost.

Pay upfront – Alternatively, if you can afford to do so, consider paying the full amount for the year up front. Much like your car insurance payment, if you pay the full year amount in one go, some schools may offer you a small discount.

Scholarships or bursaries – It’s a good idea to research whether or not your child would be eligible for a bursary or scholarship. According to the ISC, more than a third of pupils at private schools across the country are helped via these programmes. Scholarships are usually awarded to pupils who have a talent in sport or academia, while bursaries are typically means-tested and are for lower income families.

Discounts – Some schools will offer sibling discounts, so if you have more than one child you wish to attend the school, this could be something to consider. Similarly, children who have parents in the clergy, in the armed forces, or who are teachers in private education, may also qualify for some sort of fee reduction.

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