Ensuring that your child or grandchild has the best start to life is undoubtedly a high priority, and private education may well be one way you intend to achieve this.
Indeed, according to University College London, private school pupils do “significantly better” at A-levels than those in similar state schools.
However, private school fees are notoriously expensive. The table below shows the average term fees for boarding schools, depending on the type of school and age of the pupil:
Source: Independent Schools Council (ISC) Census and Annual Report 2023
With fees having risen this year by around 5% since 2022, the cost of sending children to private school has dramatically increased. According to figures published by the Telegraph, it now costs around £800,000 to send three children to private day school from the ages of 5 to 18.
As a result of this cost, you may be considering ways to reduce the fees that you would have to pay to ensure your child has the education you want them to have.
So, read on to discover a few methods that could help you reduce the fees you pay for your child or grandchild’s education.
Consider only paying for “core” school years
Although it is possible to send your child to private school from age five, this can dramatically increase the cost. Meanwhile, having access to private education might be most valuable when they reach GCSE or even A-level age.
So, rather than paying for private education all the way through, you could consider sending your child to a state primary school, and perhaps even a secondary school up until age 14, when they will start studying for these crucial exams.
Alternatively, if you live in an area with schools that are selective on an educational basis, you could look to do this the other way around.
For example, in areas that still have the grammar school system, you could consider paying for your child to attend private school up until they can attend a grammar secondary school.
Of course, you will need to factor in your child or grandchild’s transition from one school to another if you seek to employ this method.
Remember to shop around schools
Private school fees vary dramatically, especially from region to region. In fact, the ISC Census and Annual Report 2023 shows that the average termly non-boarding day fees for a school in London totals £6,676.
Meanwhile, here in the north-west, we have the lowest average term fees for the same type of schooling, sitting at £4,023. So, if you were considering sending your child further afield, it may first be worth comparing fees of different local schools and seeing whether there is a more suitable option nearby.
Furthermore, as the table above shows, the type of school you want for your child will affect the fees you pay. For example, if you want them to have a full boarding school experience, this will be more expensive than sending them to day school.
Carefully considering what type of school would suit your child could help you to reduce the costs, rather than paying the most expensive fees because this is perceived as “best”.
Check the school fee structure for savings
As well as looking across regions for schools, it can be worth examining the fee structures of each individual institution, as there may be variants in discounts and fee reductions depending on certain criteria.
For example, many private schools offer fee reductions if you enrol more than one of your children, meaning you can reduce the cost of fees if you send your child and their siblings.
Schools may also offer discounts if you pay for an entire year upfront, rather than for individual terms. While this may only be 1-2%, that would make a significant difference if you ultimately had to pay the full £800,000 for three children to attend from age 5 to 18.
Comparing schools on this basis could also help to reduce fees.
Look for scholarships and bursaries to reduce the cost
Alongside fee reductions and discounts, many private schools offer scholarships and bursaries to pupils.
You may be able to apply for a scholarship if your child is particularly talented and excels in an area such as sport, music, drama, or art. Certain scholarships may also be available for educational attainment.
There are certain bursaries awarded to pupils who are from specific areas, too. It is worth checking whether you can access one of these, as they can help to partially reduce the fees.
Bear in mind that many bursaries are means-tested. That does not necessarily exclude you, as some of the eligibility criteria for private schools may allow for high earners. Similarly, they may consider educational attainment, rather than net income or assets.
It is worth checking with schools on a one-to-one basis to find out what sort of bursaries or scholarships they offer, and any associated rules that come with them.
Save and invest from the day your child is born
Whether you are able to use one or even all of the options above, it can also be sensible to save and invest for your child or grandchild’s education from the day they are born.
By setting money aside specifically for this purpose, you can build a dedicated pot to use on their fees. It can be especially useful to invest for their later education in secondary school and sixth form, as this is the stage when fees tend to increase the most.
Crucially, investing from the start of their life to age 14 or 16 offers a longer time frame, which can potentially give your money more time to grow.
As the Financial Conduct Authority – the financial regulator in the UK – notes, investing over a period of five years can offer your wealth more time to ride out short-term dips in performance.
The longer you invest, the more opportunity your money has to grow in the market. So, while a five-year time frame may make it possible to save from the day they are born until age five to fund their education, investing for longer could be even more effective.
Bear in mind that a Junior ISA (JISA) will not be a suitable option for this. These accounts, which are held in the name of your child, cannot be accessed by them until they turn 18, and so are typically more suitable for providing them with a financial head start in adult life.
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This blog is for general information only and does not constitute advice. The information is aimed at retail clients only.
The value of your investment can go down as well as up and you may not get back the full amount you invested. Past performance is not a reliable indicator of future performance.