Private school - a bit of a stretch(35 Posts)
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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..
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 ...
However, other prep schools charge for lots of things. Lunch, trips, clubs etc.
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!
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.
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.
This is really helpful - thank you all so much for taking the time to respond!
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.
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. )
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.
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).
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.
RE shorter terms, it tends to be 10 weeks times 3.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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