10 Tips for finding the cheapest local access to independent education
- Termly fees increase as the child gets older, so investing when they are young to give solid foundations, may ensure access to the best state education options from age 11 or 13 onwards.
- Shop around your search area. School fees can vary hugely from school to school.
- If looking for a place as a day pupil, schools that offer day provision only, with no weekly, flexi or full boarding, usually have cheaper day fees.
- All-girls schools often have lower fees than co-educational schools. This includes those which are part of the GPDST. (Girls’ Public Day School Trust)
- Always ask about ‘extra charges’ that are made in addition to the termly fees. Some schools offer after school hours childcare, field trips, books, laptop, excursions, insurances, learning support or EAL lessons as inclusive, while others charge these as ‘extras’. Is there a second-hand uniform shop, as these costs can all add up?
- If your child is bright or talented in a particular field, always ask what scholarships are offered, how are they assessed and how and when to apply. Some schools offer bursaries for military personnel and teachers often pay significantly reduced fees for their children to attend the independent school in which they work.
- Excelling at state school from age 11 to 16, may open up opportunities for applying for a scholarship to an independent school for the sixth form. Smaller independent schools sometimes offer sixth form scholarships in order to keep talented year 11 pupils, if they feel there is a chance they may move to another school at this stage.
- With the current low interest rates on savings, ask the bursar about discounts for paying for several years fees in advance. Taking into account annual fee increases, plus any discount, this may be a more cost-effective way to invest your school fee funds. Some schools will even pay interest on the funds you have paid in advance. A wealth management professional will be best placed to offer guidance in this area.
- Ask if there is an option to make monthly school fee payments to spread the termly fee. Some schools will take fees in this way by direct debit or post-dated cheque.
- State Boarding Schools only charge an accommodation fee, with free state-funded tuition so are a more affordable means of gaining a boarding school education. Further information can be found at www.sbsa.org.uk
Is the cheapest termly fee always the most cost-effective?
- With the current high cost of fuel, how far is the return journey school run done twice each day? Are there local parents with whom you can lift share? What will the train or a taxi cost? Remember weekly boarding only needs two school runs a week and full-boarding less!
- Will siblings need to be collected at different times from different schools?
- Are there convenient school bus routes and what do they cost to use termly?
- What are the costs in terms of your time, fuel for the parent taxi service, as well as joining and coaching fees for arranging a programme of after school and weekend activities, if these are not available as part of the school inclusive programme. This includes activities such as junior sections of local sports clubs, piano, dance lessons, drama or riding to name only a few.
- Will shorter school hours mean you need to employ pre-school or after school childcare? Most independent schools provide for early morning and after school supervision but those schools with boarding usually offer an educational and extra-curricular programme covering a longer school day.
- Will you need to employ a tutor to help with homework or prepare for the 11 +? Some schools offer homework supervision after school, with teacher support to offer assistance as an inclusive part of the fees.
- What is the school meal provision like? Making packed lunches daily is costly in terms of inconvenience and time.