Struggling with private school fees but what choice do we have !!

(61 Posts)
hugoboss1 Thu 09-Feb-12 13:10:46

My fairly intelligent daughter went to a local small village school. Not academically great but a nice environment/nice people.

Our dream was for her to go to the fairly local private secondary school but we knew it would be a struggle to pay the £12,000 school fees.

We did not get any of our 4 chosen local schools but the worse secondary school with a dreadful reputation in every area. A family friend worked there for 5 months before having a breakdown, she witnessed various things and strongly advised we did not consider it an option. It was a nightmare situation and we attended 8 appeals, contacted the local MP, had meetings with the local education authority and both my husband and I rang every school within a comutable distance begging for a place. We were offered no alternative so she did not even start the new year as my husband is a qualified teacher so we kept her at home whilst fighting for a place.

Our daughter is very sociable and was devastated to be at home, wondering why all her friends had been offered places at their first chosen school. In desperation we contacted the local private school but were told it was full. I virtually broke down as I spoke to the admissions lady and she promptly told me she would come back to me. The following day our daughter went for an interview and assessment day and was offered a place. She was absolutely delighted and jumped for joy.

We have struggled greatly to pay the fees and the last 18 months have gone on credit cards. We are just an average income family and have gone without any pleasures.

She is now in year 10 and adores the school. She is a great sportswoman which the school is known for and is doing well all round. We have not had a single issue since she has been there and she is becoming a wonderful young woman.

Last september we applied and recieved a bursary although it is only 30% off and of course there are all the extras. Due to the failure of our business and several companies having gone bust on us we are in a financial dilemma.

Realistically we need to take her out of the school as I have no idea where we are going to find the fees. The school will not help further as of course it is a business afterall. we have already been recieving help from family for this years fees but they cannot help further. She is aware of the situation and terrified she will have to leave. It would be a nightmare to do so, being half way through GCSE's it could really destroy her chances of doing well.

I am not sure what I am expecting any one to advise, I just wondered if anyone out there had a similar experience. I feel very angry towards the LEA for putting us in this position in the first place. We watched several people at appeal lie through their teeth in order to win places. She was the only child in her year not to get her first chosen school. We did everything above board but got nowhere.

Oh for a lottery win !!!

EdithWeston Thu 09-Feb-12 13:26:46

If the school cannot increase the bursary now (this years funds are already committed in full, I assume), can you talk to them to see if they can extend the assistance in the next financial year. Schools often prioritise existing pupils above new joiners, so there may be a possibility then. Also, you should be totally frank with the bursar - is there a may possibility you could agree a payment plan for all fees to end year 11, but over a longer time frame? They may surcharge you a bit for this, and the payments will be hanging over you for longer, but those may well be a price worth paying for continuity until after GCSE.

Are there additional state options for sixth form?

racingheart Thu 09-Feb-12 13:31:53

I can't help. Except to say, stop being so above board and proper about it. I'd write to the twenty wealthiest business people in the area, no shame, and explain the circumstances. Ask if they would be prepared to sponsor her. Try someone with something in common with her abilities - a sportswear or gym chain. Go straight to the top. Get the problem plastered all over the papers (only if your daughter can bear that. She may be too sensitive to want publicity, but if she feels strongly about staying at the school - give it a go.

You need £8-9k a year now - is that right, if the bursary is 30%? Get a second job for four years. Don't be proud. If you cleaned one house a day, early in the mornings for £30 you'd have £7,200. And that's assuming you don't have the means to earn more than £10 an hour.

Do you have a spare room? You can rent out a room tax free for £5k per year. That's half the fees covered, if you include the bursary.

Could you downsize? If you don't want to lose your house, can you rent it out and rent somewhere smaller temporarily?

How much does your daughter want to stay there? Can she start babysitting and doing a paper round? These may be drops in the ocean but a business giant won't sponsor someone who isn't helping themselves. If you, your DH and daughter are seen to be doing everything humanly possible to raise the funds, then someone will help you through. I'd bet on it.

I'd sit the whole family down and get everyone to make a list of what they can do to make this work. 'Buy a lottery ticket' defeatism not allowed. It's short term, so it has to be possible.

KirstyJC Thu 09-Feb-12 13:33:19

Is she predicted good grades? My parents were in this position - 3 of us in private school and major financial changes. I had finished GCSEs so went to local college but both my sisters stayed on for free as the school wanted to keep their GCSE grades looking good to attract more customers, and they had space anyway.

It is worth speaking to the bursar again and be totally honest about your situation, as pp said. There are sometimes grants from ex pupils etc that they can access.

The only other thing I can think of is whether your daughter could temporarily live with another family member in an area with a better school. Far from ideal, but maybe better than the alternative if it is just for one year.

Good luck.

scurryfunge Thu 09-Feb-12 13:39:49

I don't think begging for the fees will attract much sympathy in the press.

TheRhubarb Thu 09-Feb-12 13:46:42

I agree with racingheart, go to local businesses. Does she have any idea what she wants to be when she leaves? If she wanted to be, say a solicitor, you could ask a law firm for sponsorship on the premise that she does work experience for them and perhaps they will also help her through University with a view to her working for them one day.

Or go back to the school, swallow your pride and explain your predicament. There are sometimes one-off grants given by organisations to say, girls who show sporting prowess or girls from a certain area. Odd I know, but these organisations actually exist, such as the Leverhulme Trade Charities Trust Undergraduate Bursaries who give bursaries to UK resident students whose relations were commercial travellers, grocers or pharmacists (seriously).

steppemum Thu 09-Feb-12 13:49:09

racingheart what a great post.

accept she will have to move for sixth form and see it as a total of 20,000 and start raising it anyway you can. Be pro-active.

hugoboss1 Thu 09-Feb-12 14:18:08

Thanks for your messages. She is fully aware that she will be leaving for the 6th form as there is no way this situation can continue for another 3 years.

Both my husband and I are applying for jobs, any jobs ! Our business is likely to go bust. We have no equity in our home and no further credit. I am not proud and will do anything workwise to keep her in the school until she has finished her GCSE's but finding employment around here which is fairly rural is a nightmare.

We have spoken to the bursar who confirmed that the schools policy is 30% off max. My daughter watched another year 9 pupil leave last october in floods of tears with his parents as the school would not assist further.

Academically she is slightly above average for the school but excels at sports, county level. She would be mortified at the prospect of any publicity. None of her friends know about our predicament. She plays sport at school every saturday and all day sunday for her out of school sports which does not give any time for her to get a part time job, again we live in a village with not a lot happening.

I will take on board everyones comments and advice and consider all options, renting a room could be an option (as long as we keep the house). I am very grateful for everyone taking the time to respond.

ReallyTired Thu 09-Feb-12 14:19:49

Why is it deemed so terrible for this girl to go to a state school. Not all schools can be top of a league table.

I find it cr*p the suggestion of begging for someone to pay your child's school fees. Its not as if England is a third world country. I would understand if your daughter lived in Ethiopha or Afganistan.

Plenty of people attend rough schools and do well for themselves.

The only other option you might consider is to look at state boarding schools.

steppemum Thu 09-Feb-12 14:21:18

hugoboss, remember that schols that were full for year 7 may well squeeze her in now, so it is worth going back and asking again

EdithWeston Thu 09-Feb-12 14:28:24

I don't think state boarding would be the answer here, as that would still require a move part-way through GCSEs. However the situation came about, the question here is how to find one more year's fees.

That means more income, or lowering the cost, or rescheduling over a longer period.

Grants from charities do exist, but they are normally limited to those already paying and for critical years (you'd qualify) but also where there has been a major change in circumstances (death, illness preventing work, redundancy etc). Might any of these apply?

CustardCake Thu 09-Feb-12 14:35:09

ReallyTired - nobody is saying anything against state schools. Many people are lucky enough to get places at fantastic state schools. The majority of people get places at average or satisfactory state schools and that's great if its an option.

Some poor people however are left with only the option of a terrible state school. I define terrible by drugs problems, violent bullying, knife crime, sexual assaults on boys and girls, an average of 1 head teachers per year leaving due to the stress, staff morale so low that those who aren't off sick leave as soon as they can, pregnant tecahers and female teachers cornered, abused and even punched, police patrolling the gates and the bus stops at home time etc etc.
Please don't think that everyone who feels forced to choose a private school is a snobby cow who doesn't want her children mixing with the riffraff. There are schools (and lucky you if you don't have any) where no parent in their right mind would want to send a child. Stand outside the primary school gates on March 2nd any year and see the parents round here who get allocated the school I've just described literally weeping on the pavement in despair! A lot of them end up going private or moving far away and none of us blame them at all.

Sorry for the rant but I know a lot of MNers have no sympathy for people who struggle when choosing private school but its not always about being sniffy about GCSE results and extra Latin. There are some seriously dreadful schools dotted around the country and I feel very sorry for the OP and hope she can pull together just enough money for one more year.

PostBellumBugsy Thu 09-Feb-12 14:38:41

Could you extend your mortgage?
Could you downsize?
Is there anything you can do to bring in some more money?

I can't see you getting much help from local businesses. Most of them are strapped for cash themselves & helping out one child with a privileged education isn't going to tick any CSR boxes for them.

PeelingmyselfofftheCeiling Thu 09-Feb-12 14:41:40

If she's an excellent sportswoman, are there any other private schools in the area who might be able to offer a more generous scholarship? She'd still have to move part way through gcses but the school would be very invested in making sure the transition goes smoothly.

mrswoodentop Thu 09-Feb-12 14:43:37

What year is she in?Certainly in the school I work in we would not allow a child in year10 to have to leave for financial reasons we would limp them through to the end of year 11.30% is quite low ,was that means tested,also do they know ghat you will have to take your daughter out if you don't get help.
Can you get the headmaster on side as well ,it sounds like they would want to hang on to your daughter if possible.Another option would be to offer to pay the fees for the training period I.e.to the end of year 11 over say4 years rather than two.

mrswoodentop Thu 09-Feb-12 14:45:33

Sorry meant for the *remaining *period

MollieO Thu 09-Feb-12 14:51:46

Can't you find a local state school with the same GCSE curriculum? That makes more sense if no school fees bursary is available.

mrswoodentop Thu 09-Feb-12 14:55:31

The problem people have around here is that there are no state school places ,we tried to get a year 8 place for ds2,nightmare nearest was about 30 miles away (rural area)certainly no chance of choosing a school

OrmIrian Thu 09-Feb-12 14:57:35

They school sound utterly unsupportive. Yes, they are a business but they presumably rely on having a good reputation, not just academically. Treating children in this way is not good business as far as I can see. I think tackling them again should be your first port of call.

Good luck. I'm no supporter of private schooling in general but I can see it would be very hard for your DD to leave now.

Annelongditton Thu 09-Feb-12 15:02:33

I can't believe for one moment the school wants to loose any year 11 pupil half way through her GCSEs, particularly one who is competing in sports at county level which always looks good in the brochure. IT doesn't matter if you can now get into the nice state school you wanted in the first place, it is not a good time to move schools.
30% is nothing, go and talk to the Head not the bursar. Heads are teachers, they are child-centred, they do not go into teaching for the money. Bursars are accountants, I'm one and can say absolutely that you go into accountancy only for the money.
There are only 4 terms left to be paid for, if the only thing the school can do is to leave the fees unpaid until such time as you can pay them, then so be it, but they have to do something.
Unfortunately, schools see a lot of people cheat the bursary system, a friend was horrified when the head queried why after claiming dire financial need and complete inability to pay fees, she has signed her DD up for the ski trip! There have been some very bad abuses of bursaries at DS's and DD's school, and I am afraid that its parents like you who pay the price, in that schools have developed a heard it all before attitude. You need to be very open with the Head, show business accounts, bank statements etc, even be very frank about the financial situation of family who have helped you out before, if you can get the head on your side and they can see that your case is genuine, its only 4 term - you have a good chance of getting something.

HeidiHole Thu 09-Feb-12 15:15:50

Have you considered a state boarding school? www.sexeys.somerset.sch.uk/fees-terms-a-conditions

This school has a great reputation as far as I know and you only pay for the boarding aspect, not the academic aspect so £8,000 a year is there any chance you coudl pay that or still too expensive?

vixsatis Thu 09-Feb-12 15:20:13

Have you tried suggesting to the school that they defer the payment requirement, so that your daughter can do her GCSEs and that you pay the outstanding fees over a period?

StillSquiffy Thu 09-Feb-12 15:20:53

Could you approach the head of the PTA to see if she could put pressure on either the board of governers or the headmaster to relax rules given the timing of any potential move relative to GSCEs? It does seem as if the burser is hiding behind 'rules' as opposed to providing pro-active assistance.

A letter to the board of Governers asking if they personally are aware of any potential charities or benefactors that have been known to support children at the school is another option.

middleclassonbursary Thu 09-Feb-12 16:48:03

First off it is not the bursar who decides who has what money he just informs the governors of how much money is the the bank an administers the governors decisions. He is just and Im not using the term "just" in a derogatory way an accountant he does not make decisions.
You need to do three things speak directly to the head explain you plight, speak to the bursar you do need him on your side as you want him to put your case to the governors but most importantly speak to the chair of the finance committee and the chair of the governors but the chair of the finance committee is the most important person.
I know you said a child left last year but you don't know the exact circumstances so forget that and concentrate on your requirement. Work out before you do anything exactly how much you can pay be realistic take the unexpected into account: dentist car breaking down etc be completely up front this is all I can pay. Remember if you over estimate then fail to pay because of any unforeseen disaster they may not be so sympathetic next time.
Next if your daughter is that good at sport start now ringing other independent schools, boarding schools might be more interested as they are more likely to have vacancies and and ask about sports scholarships ok its a bit late but its worth ago. Again be up front about the whole situation but obviously emphasise her sporting prowess. I would advise you to try the big names they basically have more money.
Next start on the state sector ring the schools you like say your looking for a place. It is possible amongst the four you said you liked a place may come up. Keep ringing people move all the time you may have to move her straight away but hey ho. Are any near military bases children leave and join my DS1 comps all the time because of this? If Yes try them first if at one school you feel someone is more sympathetic than at another keep trying them every couple of weeks.
Finally and if all else fails can you move for 18 months? My DS1 is at the top performing state in the county we have vacancies so must others particularly in rural areas come back to MN and ask for advise on good schools and vacancies.
This is an awful situation and I'm thinking of you.

MollieO Thu 09-Feb-12 18:33:38

When I was made redundant and worried about paying school fees the bursar offered to defer fees. It was his decision alone. He didn't need to consult anyone.

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