Private school - a bit of a stretch

(35 Posts)
Dottygirl Mon 01-Jul-13 23:31:02

Would appreciate your thoughts / experiences. Looking at the sums we could just about afford private school fees for our DD (now 3 yrs old so looking ahead to Set 2014). But I am wondering whether the fees are just the start - do the other costs of private education stack up? Not sure what really, but off the top of my head... does uniform tend to be expensive... are there lots of pricey trips etc... school meals?... and so on! Can anyone give me an idea of whether this is something we need to be mindful of?

Also, my next question (but maybe it depends on the school) - we are not wealthy and as I say, doing this would be a bit of a stretch. Do kids from a more 'average' background fit in ok? Maybe the question sounds daft, sorry - I'm perhaps overthinking things!

BTW, I get the whole private / state school debate, and there are some good state schools near us, but I do want to explore the options!

Snoot Tue 02-Jul-13 00:01:36

DS was at a private school for a few years. Yes, the extras do add up, it was about £500 extra per term for unavoidable extras. School trips abroad could be avoided but most went and they were not cheap, that's just your basic History trip to France, not skiing etc. I think it depends very much on the school, some have more "ordinary" people than others. There were a lot of children of state school teachers at DS's school and they certainly weren't rolling in it, just (over)stretching themselves to do what they saw as their best. We actually moved in order to get our two into really good state schools. At secondary day fees go up to around £5k per term which for two starts getting a bit pricy wink. Good luck with your decision.

We thought we could just about stretch it for private education for our ds1 (secondary) and uniform has suddenly hit us hard. Not only is it "normal" uniform, we need to buy full Rugby, Football and cricket kits, and bags. Just got the cost for next years skiing trip in, £1350. Hello bankruptcy.

HabbaDabbaDoo Tue 02-Jul-13 00:29:34

£500 per term for 'unavoidable' extras???

At our secondary there are about 3 short trips and all pupils are expected to go. Typically, they are trips to sites of geographical or historical interest at about £40-£80 a pop.

There are more expensive trips like language exchanges and sports team tours etc. Not everyone go on these.

I reckon we spend about £300 pa on 'unavoidables' and about £2500 on the other stuff.

But this is secondary stuff. The OP is asking about prep.

DS's uniform is a £45 jacket with school logo. Everything else is M&S and Tesco. There is a sports kit and a PE kit (don't ask me why they just can't have one). Individually they aren't expensive but collectively the sports kit cost us about £150.

As for the parents, we were invited to DD's friend's house for Sunday lunch a few weekends ago. The house was literally 5 times the size of our ordinary detached. Despite their obvious wealth, the parents were friendly and 'ordinary'.

Of course there are going to be some parents you won't like but same is true at a state school.

Dustylaw Tue 02-Jul-13 00:33:40

If it would be a stretch and you have good or pretty good state primaries near you then save your money to give you a choice at secondary school. I wouldn't worry about fitting in but don't think you have to go private from day one. One thing worth considering is that sometimes (obviously not always) state primaries actually have better facilities (eg access to an outdoor play area) than some posher-looking private alternatives.

HabbaDabbaDoo Tue 02-Jul-13 00:36:10

This year the ski trip was to Canada. About 35 kids went out of the whole school so hardly 'most' in our case

A lot of kids don't go on these trips, not because parents can't afford them, but because the family like to holiday together.

I think that it comes down to where you are. I mean, with us there are very few flash cars being driven by parents but then they live in houses worth millions. Contrast this with stories about Ferraris and designer clothed mums in SUVa.

Bowlersarm Tue 02-Jul-13 00:41:48

The costs do mount up but you can still be thrifty ie our school has a very good second hand uniform shop which is used by a lot of the parents and a fraction of the price of new. School trips tend to add up a bit.

As far as the other parents are concerned,,unless you are at one of the very elite prep schools, most parents are quite ordinary. Some of my friends live in manor houses (one of two in really very grand houses), and everywhere in between to very very modest houses and an obvious struggle to pay the fees. We are somewhere in the middle, and have found most parents don't give a toss tbh about the situation/houses of the other parents. Your dd will not be thought any the less for the size of her house.

One of the best decisions I think we have made is to send our DSes to their prep school; they have had a fantastic time/education, and DH and I have had a fantastic time too and made some lifelong friends.

BeckAndCall Tue 02-Jul-13 07:26:59

And music lessons cost twice as much at independent schools as at state schools in our county as they are obviously not subsidised.

I honestly can't remember our bills at prep level, but for each child for secondary we are/were looking at extras of £500 per term each on average. With uniform on top of that.

But you can get second hand uniform, some schools allow you to use generic M&S clothes aNd you don't have to go skiing.

Chandon Tue 02-Jul-13 07:35:58

Well, you can say no to school skiing trips. I do. I chose private for better education, not for the lifestyle.

Uniforms can be bought second hand, or a few sizes up with arms taken in, then let hem out later ( Ds worse same blazer for 4 yrs).

Maybe start at local primary and see how you like it? Lots of kids thrive at stateschool.

My dyslexic oldest does significantly better at private ( moved him at 8) but youngest was doing just as well at state school ( as he is motivated and hardworking). So depends on child whether it is worth it.

LIZS Tue 02-Jul-13 08:23:12

They do accumulate. ime the first few years are relatively light cost-wise. Basic uniform to start is often tracksuit/polo shirts and summer dress and you may get the Early Years funding until she is 5 towards the published fees. Each school differs , some include meals and curriculum trips in the fees, some after school care, others clubs but you need to check what may be omitted. We found it was often 10% on extras plus occasional optional trips which varied form £150 to £300+ at Prep. We didn't find a huge difference in cost between the LA run music lessons and school although we're now paying around £24 per 40 mins.

Uniform increases and changes as they progress, almost every year something is upgraded or required in addition and while the second hand sales and supermarkets can often reduce the cost of basics , the "new" items come at premium (£35 for a rugby shirt!). However state secondaries can also have a long uniform list costing £100s.

Snoot Tue 02-Jul-13 08:23:20

At DS's school they had to take lessons in 2 instruments which were charged additionally and, as BeckandCall says, they're more expensive than at state school. Most day schools charge extra for school lunches which can be mandatory, was just looking at MCS where it is £3.85 a day, £192 for a 10 week term. Arguably you'd be paying this anyway but at state you'd always have the option of thrifty packed lunches. Uniform is a big initial expenditure, you can look in the 2nd hand shop if the PTA run one. Again depends on the type of school, some are very normal, some you'll be buying tail coats in Harrods ;-). We had to go to the outfitter, the track suit top alone was £70. After he outgrew the first blazer we worked out that some boys wore M&S although strictly prohibited (!) and replaced trousers, shirts etc from there. Cheap uniform retailers don't sell all your public school necessities, cricket bats and jumpers, blazers the correct shade of blue or with piping etc. Some schools go out of their way to be accessible, some the absolute opposite.

scaevola Tue 02-Jul-13 08:28:39

You need to check exactly what is included in the fees. If it's not all inclusive, add about £280 per term for lunch and £50 per term for day trips. Find out if there are compulsory residentials (probably not until years 5-6?)

Uniform: depends on how elaborate, but for prep you'd be looking at £200-300 for initial set up new. That can be revised downwards if the school has a good second hand arrangement.

scaevola Tue 02-Jul-13 08:30:35

After school clubs tend to cost more - whether it's just after school care or an activity. There might also be fines for late pick up. Individual/small group music lessons will normally have an extra charge. As might individual support for eg dyslexia.

scaevola Tue 02-Jul-13 08:40:23

And another cost (that another thread has just reminded me of) is that of childcare. Private schools have shorter terms. If you need paid childcare in the holidays, that's several weeks worth more to find.

HabbaDabbaDoo Tue 02-Jul-13 08:49:24

RE shorter terms, it tends to be 10 weeks times 3.

moonbells Tue 02-Jul-13 08:51:50

Please don't forget that fees are currently going up by 4-6% a year. If you're going to be stretched now, that will bite hard in a few years. Get a spreadsheet, input this year's fees and then run calculations which multiply the previous year by 1.06 each time up to Y11. See if you can afford it then on your projected salary. If you're on a wage freeze or restricted to 1-2% when food etc is going up by 2-3%, then it's going to get progressively more difficult. Take financial advice if you can.

TenToWine Tue 02-Jul-13 09:06:28

At DD's prep, most things are included in the price (eg lunches). We pay extra for music lessons (not compulsory) and for residential trips (1 a year, increasing to 2 in Y5 and 6). No doubt it means fees are a little higher than they would otherwise be, but it at least gives us certainty. most of the unfiorm is school speciifc but they run second hand sales several times a year and a lot of people use those to get most of their stuff - there is no shame in it. other schools in the area are a bit cheaper but have more extras, so i think you need to check the specifics for the schools in question. But if it is that close to the wire that some extras would make a difference to your ability to afford, I woudl not do it unless you or your DH have genuine prospects of a big increase in your income in the future. I would for local state primary and use some of the funds for a tutor in Y5 and other extras, and aim for a good secondary, whether grammar or private (assuming the state secondaries in your area are not great).

SanityClause Tue 02-Jul-13 09:07:40

The trips and extras at DD1's state school are not all that different to DD2's private school.

So far (up to year 9) DD1 has had a whole class residential trip each year, and a skiing trip, as well as a language exchange trip. There have been lots of day trips, and in-school workshop type things we have had to pay extra for. (She texted us on her way to Paris, as she had forgotten to mention before she left, that she was invited on a music trip to Rome, next academic year. grin)

DD2's ski trip will be more expensive (Canada, rather than France) but the other trips are similar cost, and the enrichment activities, held in the school, often have no additional charge.

Their (optional) instrumental lessons are run by the same organisation, and cost the same money.

A friend was in a situation recently wher her privately educated daughter was invited to a netball trip in Barbados. She felt very bad for the one in grammar school...until she was invited to a netball trip in Bermuda with her school.

So, IME, private school extras (on average) are no more expensive than state school extras. BUT, if it is a stretch to pay the fees, it will obviously be even more of a stretch to pay for the extras, as well.

MRSJWRTWR Tue 02-Jul-13 09:13:15

We don't live anywhere near London and DS2 is in a prep school that costs approximately £2300 a term. On top of this are music/singing lessons approx. £150 per term, 2-3 school trips per term at about £10-20 each and one residential trip per year at about £150. There are after school clubs, 60% of which are not charged for. The school fees also cover after/before school care from 8am - 6pm and include lunch. The uniform cost about £300 to start with but there is an active and well attended second hand school shop.

DS1 did well enough at our local state primary school but went to an independent school from y7. This was what we intended for DS2 but he struggled in a class of 30 and has really come on well since we moved him fro Y2.

Dottygirl Tue 02-Jul-13 12:19:44

This is really helpful - thank you all so much for taking the time to respond!

AnnaBBB Tue 02-Jul-13 16:28:50

Depends on the private school...some are v expensive and charge if you sneeze .... Uniform costs can be considerably more expensive than state - blazer alone ridiculous cost of £100. Extras are about £500 - 800 per term including clubs (3 a week for DS) and music lessons (about £230 a term) /uniform/day trips for DS's prep. and not including any foreign trips (annual ski trip around £900) . Again don't forget the fees increase not only per year but also as they go up the school.

AnnaBBB Tue 02-Jul-13 16:38:31

Just remembered when DS moved prep schools, getting the prescribed uniform (of which there was the every day one, a "best" one for outings/concerts etc), a summer and winter one, sports kit and all (which included 2 lots of a few things), cost in excess of £900 for the year I had sticker shock. But again it depends on the school.

chauffeurmummy Tue 02-Jul-13 19:40:49

It does vary a lot between schools but I think you can get a reasonable idea of the schools attitude by looking at the uniform list/cost. Also look at what is/isn't included. My daughters prep fees include lunches (and they are good healthy lunches with lots of variety), and wrap around care from 8.10am to 5.20pm. She's currently in pre-prep and they do 1 trip a term which is normally between £10-£20. Total uniform new was around £300 although I think I was probably the only one to get it all new (very bad organisational skills on my part!). There's a very busy second hand uniform sale once a term and as the uniform is such good quality you can barely tell the difference. Our car park is 4x4 city - however no one bats an eyelid at my non- 4x4 motor...... and residences vary from stately homes to small semis. Honestly, no one bothers!

wordfactory Tue 02-Jul-13 19:48:10

OP, you need to dig deeper, and should not be remotely embarrassed to speak to the bursar.

At DC's prep, the fees included lunch and all school trips. All clubs were free too.

The uniform was pricey, but there was a second hand shop and a brisk trade in hand ons. I didn't buy a blazer after the first one was outgrown! Got given them. And sports kits were indeed numerous but very well laundered wink...

However, other prep schools charge for lots of things. Lunch, trips, clubs etc.

Ask!

adeucalione Wed 03-Jul-13 08:48:55

DD moved from state secondary to private last year and the extras cost about the same - school dinners, music lessons and trips are all comparable (and optional).

For us the only eye watering, compulsory extra is the cost of the school bus to/from school, which was free before, but that may not apply to you.

And as others have said, the uniform can be expensive - most of ours can be sourced from M&S, or anywhere really, but the blazer and sports kit are only available from the school shop. There is a different kit, including trainers, for each sport, and it is all expensive - but there is a secondhand shop that everyone uses.

On a more cheerful note we used to get lots of requests for small amounts of money at the state school that we don't get now - visitors to school, tickets to school events, refreshments at school events are all free now, and DD is given a full set of text books whereas I used to buy them before.

iseenodust Wed 03-Jul-13 09:43:13

DS is just about to go into an independent school at yr5. The uniform is much more expensive than his current polo shirt & shorts from Tesco. However, there is a second hand sale a couple of times a year, white shirts can come from the supermarket still and the brilliant lady in the school shop shoved him a track suit 4 ages too large 'because they don't wear them out' !

After school care to 5.30pm carries no extra charge. DS does not play an instrument so no costs there. He won't be going skiing and the overseas sports trips have been brought much closer to home 'in the light of the recession' according to the brochure.

We live way beyond the M25 and the majority of kids at the school do not come from monied backgrounds. My bog standard car didn't look out of place in the carpark. grin

Mumzy Thu 04-Jul-13 20:24:11

There will also be the inevitable fundraising/ charity of the year type stuff at most indies which though not compulsory seems to expect dps and relatives to continually sponsor dcs for doing various activities. I think all in all we've given about £200 this year to school's charity. Will definitely be more careful next year.

MrsCampbellBlack Thu 04-Jul-13 20:30:32

For pre-prep and prep - I don't think the extras are too bad. OK the uniform and sports kit is £££ but you can buy second hand.

With regards to trips, these aren't massively expensive for the first few years. My eldest is going into yr5 and his trip will be £350.

We also get early care and after school care included in the fees and the vast majority of extra-curricular activities are free.

There is a mix of families at our school but yes there are a lot of very wealthy families.

Snoot Fri 05-Jul-13 00:19:21

I know the head of a top pre/prep school. He says (off the record, clearly!), that in his opinion if you can get your child into a good, village primary school there is generally nothing to be gained by paying for private until about year 5. He recommends saving up a few years' fees in this time, everything being equal, so that fees are much more affordable in later years.

wordfactory Fri 05-Jul-13 08:21:57

The only trouble with that snoot is a place might not come up!

Some preps are massively over subscribed.

That said, the parents in that financial bracket are often highly mobile, so families do go abroad..

myron Wed 10-Jul-13 19:27:25

At our local day indie - it gets more expensive as you go further up the school.
Pre-prep fees finish at £9K pa.
Prep school fees finish at £14K pa.
Senior school fees finish at £17K pa.

Pyrrah Thu 11-Jul-13 11:43:04

If you've got a really good state primary in the area, then I would opt for that and then tutor for a few years if you want to get her into a selective secondary (indy or state). For a boy, if you are aiming at the schools that use CE then I would move them to a prep for 2-3 years before the exams.

You do not HAVE to go on the expensive school trips. Neither I, nor my siblings, nor most of my friends ever went on the skiing trip. Generally it was the same 5 or 6 families who went every year.

Second-hand uniform is sought after - and often a bit of a bun fight to get hold of. I have found it a bit odd, that all my prep and GS uniform was snapped up by new parents, and yet even offering DD's logo'd cardigans and other bits and pieces (that she has barely worn over the course of a single year and look practically brand-new) for free, I don't seem to be able to find anyone who wants them.

I live in a very deprived area and wondered if accepting second-hand clothes is seen in a bad way here?

There were a vast range of backgrounds at all the indies I went to - more so that at the state GS. Some parents were obviously extremely wealthy with sparkly new cars and holidaying all over the world, others were more like my parents... local professional with 4 kids counting the pennies and holidaying in the UK on the cheap every year. I would guess that the majority were local GPs, solicitors, dentists, architects, accountants etc rather than bankers and celebs. Plus there were children who were on bursaries some of whom came from very humble backgrounds (not that any of us even knew who was on a bursary). Many of the teachers' children also attended as they got a reduction on the fees.

Different schools will have different extras - some include lunch and clubs in the fees. IIRC, the extras at my school was for music lessons, ballet lessons and the odd day-trip.

Xenia Thu 11-Jul-13 12:00:13

The extras can be very little.
Mine do have music lessons but many do not and that is because we are a musical family I sing, ever day and 3 of them won music scholarships.
however mine choose not to go on residential school trips - many children don't go on those.
Lunches - plenty take in packed lunch.
The vast bulk of everything I pay every term is those fees. There might be the cost of the school magazine added on or £14 trip to the theatre but it really is hardly anything.

My girls got about 100% of their school uniform second hand as the schools rang second hand uniform shops, second hand lacrosse sticks etc etc. I give back for the younger children their uniform to the school now and that will be sold on to other parents I'm sure.

There are very varied backgrounds around here - outer London.

Try to pick a school it is hard to get into and which send children to very good schools at 11 or 13. If they take just about anyone then the standard may be worse than your local state primary.

Crumbledwalnuts Thu 11-Jul-13 12:06:39

It's very tough. But if you get the right school it's worth it.

The things to calculate are: think about the total you'd spend on the education. From 5 it's at least 150K. If you can afford that then INSTEAD you could give her a lump sum of 100K to start her life with. In addition you can afford tutoring and all the tennis lessons under the sun, and go travelling to your hearts content. You can afford Mandarin lessons, or home-schooling for a time with a tutor. Unless I was very comfy I would not do it from 5 because every disappointment can be magnified. You'd think you have more call against the school because you're paying, but you don't, so you have to choose a VERY good school.

I have two in private, worth it, but can't wait till it's over.

Xihha Mon 15-Jul-13 13:52:35

DD starts prep school in September and her uniform is costing a fortune (around £340 new, for one set) they do have a second hand store but apparently haven't had anything DDs size in quite a while, her school do have a list of permitted brand/lines of shoes though and 2 hats (summer and winter) and a uniform coat, blazer etc and virtually everything has a logo so you can't buy it from a different shop. I know my friend's child, who is at a different prep paid a lot less than that as her school has mostly M&S uniform so it very much depends on the school.

As for clubs trips etc, most after school clubs are £40 a term but as that includes stuff like ballet and tap lessons in small classes it's not terrible, They do have trips once or twice a year but these are usually about £20 so no worse than state school trips, it's about £100 for packed lunches a term and there seems to be a lot of cake sales, charity events and stuff that go on.

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