A recent release from Lloyds Banking Group has drawn attention to their findings that the price of private school education is rising at an “eye-watering” rate, which they say increases the risk of middle class families being priced out of paying for a private education.
The research, drawn from the Independent Schools Council (ISC) and the Office for National Statistics (ONS), shows that the average cost for one child has now reached as high as £157,000.
School fees have risen by 21 per cent over the past five years, a rate that is 6 per cent above that of inflation and that is four times faster than that of average earnings.
In the Lloyds Bank report, Sarah Deaves, Private Banking Director Lloyds, commented:
“All parents want the best for their children, and a good education is no exception. A place at a private school is a huge financial commitment, almost an eye-watering £157,000 for just one child, from Reception to finishing the sixth-form as a day pupil.”
As reported by the Daily Mail, the rise in fees means that parents of sixth formers now leaving school would have been paying half of today’s prices when their children in reception. Moreover, the average private school fees today are equivalent to almost 40 per cent of the average parent’s annual earnings.
The largest increase in private school fees has occurred in the region of Greater London, where fees have grown by 25 per cent and are the highest in Britain at an average of £15,828. After this, the next highest increases were in the North, East Anglia, Wales, West Midlands and the South East, all going up by 21 per cent.
Meanwhile, the lowest average increases in annual fees over the same period were seen in the East Midlands, the South West and Scotland, all going up by 19 per cent.
Despite the increases, however, pupil numbers remain largely unchanged compared to five years ago. Though the number of senior school pupils (11 to 16) has fallen by 3 per cent, the Lloyds study reports, all other age groups have in fact seen an increase; Sixth formers have grown by 10 per cent whilst nursery school and junior school students have seen a six per cent increase in numbers.
Even so, Professor Alan Smithers of Buckingham University has warned that many private schools are heavily reliant nowadays on fees paid by wealthy families from countries such as Russia and China.
Speaking to the Sunday Times, he said:
“Good education is very expensive but the fees now being charged by private schools will be squeezing out a lot of parents who would like to use them as an alternative to state schools.
The risk is that they provide an excellent education for overseas young people who can afford to pay.”
Private boarding schools charge higher fees for full-time boarders, meaning that most boarding schools do outreach events abroad to try to attract students whose families can cover the costs.
All of this is in contrast to the UK’s universities, which have been scrambling to fill positions following A level results this summer amidst post-Brexit uncertainty. It is unclear if private school fees will be affected by Brexit, though the schools’ apparent reliance on international students may well have a bearing on the future of private education.