Private education need not be just for the super-rich

The Sunday Times, 30/11/14, reports on the substantial discounts on fees available at independent schools making an independent education affordable for all. HMC member schools City of London School for GirlsChrist’s HospitalMillfield SchoolRoedeanReigate Grammar School and HMC associate Royal Alexandra & Albert School are featured.

There are 511,928 pupils at private schools, according to the Independent Schools Council. The average fees are £4,241 a term for a day school, or £9,596 for a boarding school, although about a third of pupils receive help with fees.

According to a report by the stockbroker Killik, sending a child to a private day school from reception to sixth form costs about £250,000, excluding all the extras — and that is money that must come out of taxed income.

Bursaries and scholarships

The former cover up to 100% of fees, while scholarships tend to pay 10% to 20%. Some children qualify for both if they are particularly talented — in music or chess, for example — and not too wealthy. City of London School for Girls (fees £4,803 a term) offers bursaries and scholarships and more than 20% of its senior school pupils get some kind of financial help. It offers bursaries that can cover 100% of fees.

Bursaries and scholarships are funded by charities and other concerns, as well as schools. They may be aimed at children from specific areas or religions. For example, the Ogden Trust offers 50% off sixth form fees at 50 schools to applicants doing A-level physics and intending to study the subject at university (

Not all are pricey

Christ’s Hospital School in Horsham, West Sussex, charges up to £9,850 a term for boarders. John Franklin, the head, said: “Christ’s Hospital offers more means-tested bursaries than any other independent boarding school in the UK. Just 16% pay full boarding fees.”

Profession can cut fees

There are military discounts at many schools. Millfield in Street, Somerset, offers 15% off, for example. Roedean girls’ school, near Brighton, (fees from £5,460 a term ) offers bursaries for children of clergy, starting from 20% off day fees.

State boarding schools

If your child wants a boarding school education but you can’t afford the fees, you could opt for a state boarding school (details With these, you don’t pay fees, just accommodation costs.

Among them is the Royal Alexandra and Albert School in Reigate, Surrey. It offers bursaries for children of stipendiary Church of England clergy, cutting boarding charges to as low as £1,547 a term.

Special abilities

Talented children can gain admission to special music and dancing schools. The Choir Schools’ Association covers schools linked to cathedrals and colleges ( About 1,200 of the 20,000-plus pupils are choristers and receive help with fees.

Musical children and those talented at dancing can get generous help with the fees at eight top ballet and music schools through the Department for Education’s Music and Dance Scheme.

Pay in advance

You can save money on fees if you offer to pay a year, or even several years, upfront. Ask the bursar as most schools will try to help by offering reduced fees. You may have to provide proof of income.

Bank on grandparents

Finally, you could ask the Bank of Grandma and Granddad. About a quarter of parents with children in private education have help with the fees from their own parents, according to research for the private bank Duncan Lawrie.

Case study: Reward hits right note

James Benton’s musical talents are paying rewards for his parents. James, 9, is a member of the RGS Godfrey Searle Choir, attached to Reigate Grammar School. As a result, his parents get about £1,500 a year off his fees — currently £4,190 a term — at Reigate St Mary’s, the preparatory school for Reigate Grammar. He has just been promoted from being a probationer to a chorister, which increased the scholarship by 50%.

His mother Jane, a writer, 44, said: “I think what is really important about the scholarship he gets is that it is an acknowledgment of James’s hard work: it’s like getting a pay rise at work. It reinforces to him that he is valued.” James has been in the choir for two years.

It is not a small commitment to be a member of the choir, which involves singing at four church services during the week as well as on Sundays. The choir has also been used on film soundtracks and has recorded with singers including Hayley Westenra and Susan Boyle.

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