08 May 2011

Like most long-term financial planning it is of great importance to obtain the correct advice at the outset so that future events can be anticipated. The planning must be thorough and take into account many factors so that the resultant plan has a good chance of meeting its objectives and yet be flexible enough to cater for any changes that have to be made.

 There is no one answer to suit all families’ ability to meet the financial commitment required by providing an independent education.  Some parents may plan several years ahead for the future education of an older child, others will hope to pay directly from earnings. Grandparents may also play a part in assisting with the cost.

The information in this section outlines the typical cost of independently educating your child and the various ways in which this financial commitment might be met. 

School fees

Independent school fees range from Nursery (full time) fees of approximately £3000 per annum to full boarding for 6th Formers of just over £30000 per annum.  Day fees for a pupil aged 7 years to those for a sixth form pupil range from around £6000 to £19000 per annum.  Boarding pupils for the same ages can expect to pay between £12000 and £30000 per annum. Fees in independent Sixth Form colleges are usually charged per subject and with a separate charge for accommodation.

Fees are usually inclusive of tuition, stationery and personal insurance.  Additional costs can include hot lunches; Before and After School Care; specialised clubs especially those with specialist coaching; music, dance and drama lessons and school trips.  School uniform may have to be bought at selected shops and not at general retail outlets.

Payments are asked for in advance, usually per term. Many independent schools, however, now operate a direct debit scheme to pay monthly and some may also allow a discounted payment to cover all fees paid in full  up to 3 years in advance.

If parents wish to move their child from a school a full term’s notice is usually asked for, otherwise one term’s payment in lieu may be charged.

Pupils from overseas may need to cover extra costs such as guardianship and travel to or from airports.  These costs may already be included in the fee amount charged to overseas pupils by some independent schools. In addition English language lessons may be needed and will be an extra cost.

Government vouchers can be used from age 3 to offset the cost of nursery fees.

Scholarships and bursaries

Independent schools may offer a wide range of scholarships which may be worth from 10% to 100% of school fees. Such scholarships could be offered for Academic achievement, All Rounder ability, Art, Choral, Music, Dance and Drama, Science, Design Technology and Sport. Exhibitions may be awarded too although these may be worth less than scholarships.  Some scholarships will last for all the time the pupil is at the school, others for less.  If a scholarship pupil leaves the school they may be required to repay the amount of the scholarship.

Bursaries may be offered to children of Clergy and Armed Forces or given in the case of financial need.  Sibling discounts may also apply at some schools. 

Assistance with the payment of fees is also offered to personnel employed by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and by the Ministry of Defence where a boarding option may be needed by parents whose professional lives demand frequent moves or postings overseas. For details contact the FCO Personnel Services Department on 020 7238 4357.

Parents in the Armed Forces can contact the Service Children’s education Advisary Service on 01980 618244.  They can also visit or

Government Nursery and Childcare Vouchers

Government vouchers can be used by pupils from age 3. All three and four year olds are entitled to 12.5 hours of free early education for 38 weeks of the year. This applies until they reach compulsory school age (the term following their fifth birthday). The early education can take place in nurseries, playgroups, preschools or with a childminder. Many independent nursery or pre-preparatory schools will accept this scheme.

Independent schools have longer school holidays than state schools which can cause problems for working parents. Childcare vouchers can save parents money on childcare for children up to 15 years of age.  This scheme is operated through employers and allows payment for childcare from pre-tax salary. They are usable by any nursery, playgroup, nanny, childminder or au pair who is registered and regulated by Ofsted.