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Rise in school fees = financial problems. Who to contact?

(71 Posts)
schoolfeesconcern Thu 10-Jul-14 10:47:42

We received a letter from one of the governors about a 4% hike in school fees. I'm worried that this will put us into serious debt. We both work but our salaries have not increased by that much. Mine hasn't increased at all, and I work for myself. We don't take flashy holidays and our cars are bangers. This is the second rise in 2 years. When we accepted the place for one of our DCs we received a letter after about a month to tell us of the first rise. And now this. We are very happy with the school, just not the way in which the fees have risen.

Should I write a letter in reply to ask how they can justify this rise? And might we be eligible for a bursary? Would we ask the bursar, or the headteacher? I don't want to single our DCs out and am worried we might be seen as not committing to the school, although we very much want our DCs to stay there. My husband is worried we might be told to take the DCs elsewhere if we speak out.

How on earth does everyone else afford this? We have always worked very hard, not got wealthy grandparents but not poor-poor either. Most of the other parents get reduced fees as they work there, or because they are very wealthy bankers. We seem to be stuck in the middle.

Thanks in advance.

lljkk Thu 10-Jul-14 10:54:08

It's normal to ask about applying for a bursary. No shame in it. Some schools can't offer them at all, the worst they do is tell you that.

PatriciaHolm Thu 10-Jul-14 10:57:08

Talk to the bursar about any schemes they have to help, they may be reluctant to lose existing students.

In the longer term though I would be concerned if a 4% rise will put you in serious debt - private schools fees do have a tendency to rise every year, as you are discovering, so you need to think about a plan for future years. Bursaries are normally awarded annually so you can't guarantee you'll get one every year. If finances are this tight, I would seriously be looking at other options.

Hakluyt Thu 10-Jul-14 10:57:31

You can ask for a bursary.

But sadly, this is the sort of thing you have to factor in when deciding to pay school fees. And it will carry on happening so you do have to think long term.

Puzzled about most of the parents working in the school, though. Ho on earth does that work?

PancakesAndMapleSyrup Thu 10-Jul-14 10:58:33

Go straight to the bursar and let them know your position. If you dont ask you dont get. The fees will rise year on year so it is prudent for you to do so now. Hope you get the answer you need from them.

Quejica Thu 10-Jul-14 11:02:24

I always assume a 5% rise per year.

Hulababy Thu 10-Jul-14 11:02:53

Fee increases are very much the norm I'm afraid.

When we were first looking at independent education, our IFA advised us to work on a 10% increase for each year to be on the safe side and it also allowed for the key stage increases that occur usually at the start of each key stage (start of infants, start of juniors, start of secondary, start of GCSE years, start of level years)

Bursaries are often available for those with financial difficulties but cannot usually be used for the long term. They should only be there to cover short term and/or temporary situations.

MarshaBrady Thu 10-Jul-14 11:05:38

Fees are increased by a percentage each year and they also tend to get higher as you go up the school.

So you need to have loads of extra income in the first years to make it doable in the later years. If it feels close at the beginning it gets too hard.

See what they say about the bursary.

eatyourveg Thu 10-Jul-14 11:07:25

Go the the bursar as others have suggested - however you do need to factor in some sort of fees rise each year albeit not always a massive one. Dc's school rose approx £1K each year, some years it was more, some years less.

ds1 had a bursary - have a look at any scholarships too. Some are meaningless and have no monetary value but others can be quite substantial. The second and any subsequent children often get a reduction too so make sure that is in place

schoolfeesconcern Thu 10-Jul-14 11:08:33

Thanks for your replies. I have written to the bursar.

PatriciaHolm: is a 4% annual rise normal? My salary has not increased at all, my husband's by 0.5%. Where do schools think that the extra money would come from? We have looked into other options but ultimately want our DCs to go to what we consider to be the best school.

Hakluyt: Parents who work at the school receive subsidised fees. Unfortunately my profession is not one where I could gain employment at the school. That might be one way around it - to retrain.

So how much should we be accounting for? I suppose it depends on how much it costs to start. 4% of, say, £3k a term is doable. But 4% of £11k a term is a lot extra!

AuntieStella Thu 10-Jul-14 11:15:08

A 4% rise is entirely normal.

Yes, a lot of people find themselves priced out of private education.

Unfortunately you'll need to revisit your budget and financial assumptions and rework them including typical school fee inflation (allow 5% per year for budgeting purposes). If the school cannot offer a bursary, then to might need to start thinking in terms of planning transfer to the state sector.

PatriciaHolm Thu 10-Jul-14 11:15:30

Entirely normal for some schools, yes I'm afraid, as other replies have indicated. I'm afraid there isn't much you can do about it, and you do need to think about how you will deal with it in future if it happens every year. Maybe the school could give you an idea of whether the annual rise is a standard thing.

duchesse Thu 10-Jul-14 11:18:39

DD2's school has just announced above inflation rise as well. Takes her school fees to nearly £1000 more per year (from £11,000 to nearly £12,000 per year). It's going to be hard but thankfully she's the only one needing fees atm and she only has one year left, so we'll have to weather it. She gets a scholarship which is 10% so of course that will go up as well.

mummytime Thu 10-Jul-14 11:25:17

If you read any of my threads on private schools, this is exactly what I (and lots of others) warn about. Private school fees tend to rise by on average 5% per year, that is the trend for the last 10+ years.
I don't think you will be told to take your DC elsewhere just for speaking out, however if you can't pay the fees that may well be the bottom line.

If most parents work in the school and so receive subsidised fees, then I might wonder strongly about the financial viability of the school. However it could be that they are upgrading the school (as is necessary to compete in the private school market place).

schoolfeesconcern Thu 10-Jul-14 11:32:19

Gosh, thanks for this. I had no idea about this sort of hike occurring every year. When I tracked our finances, I noticed in particular that the school didn't have a track record of increasing the fees annually (hence thinking we could afford it). I have experienced fee rises of 2 or 3% in other private schools our DCs have been in but certainly not every year, nor have I ever heard of anyone pricing themselves out of private education. Maybe skewed by who we know, however, we seem to earn considerably less than other families, and maybe private schools are changing.

I didn't realise that 5% was the average. Obviously, we will have to think of a way of financing the future. What a shame if we have to leave the school for this reason. Goodness, life really isn't fair sometimes.

Thanks for posts. Off to find myself some sort of extra income!

Hakluyt Thu 10-Jul-14 11:33:59

"Hakluyt: Parents who work at the school receive subsidised fees."

Of course they do. But most?

Private schools are businesses. And like any other business are affected by inflation.

Taking on school fees when you would be put into serious debt by a 4% rise strikes me as being a strange decision.

SantasLittleMonkeyButler Thu 10-Jul-14 11:45:05

Of course it is OK to make enquiries about a Bursary. The worst the Bursar can tell you is that no help is available. It certainly shouldn't disadvantage your DCs just by asking.

My best friend ended up having to withdraw her DD from a private school due to spiralling costs a few years ago. She had been at the school since the age of 2 or 3 and had been fine until the school merged with a more prestigious school nearby. The fees of the school A (where friends DD was) were raised to match school B, thereby pricing out several of the school A families. If I remember correctly, it was roughly a 40% fee rise. My friend (and other parents) contacted the new administration to complain about the sudden fee rise & enquire about bursaries. The only real reply they got was that "the fees charged represent excellent value for money". They were also only given one term's notice of the merger.

GoodArvo Thu 10-Jul-14 11:50:45

I'd like a holiday home on the Med, but I can't afford it.

Most people can't afford private school and it looks like you can't really either. Of course you want your child to go to the best school, but you will need to look at alternatives. Going into debt would be a mistake.

schoolfeesconcern Thu 10-Jul-14 11:56:37

Hakluyt: Sorry - should have been clearer perhaps: I meant most of the parents who work at our school. I have no idea if it is all - probably all. I don't mind; I was just trying to set some context as to why we fall in between the main population of parents. I'm well aware that private schools are businesses, I was simply surprised at this rise as it is not comparable to the other private schools my DCs have attended.
When we took on the school fees we didn't anticipate a 4% annual rise. And I suppose it depends on what 'serious debt' means. Perhaps I should have used the word considerable rather than serious. Sorry, I should probably have worded my posts in more detail but am multi-tasking.

GoodArvo: Yes, true, most people can't afford private schools. We can, but perhaps not this particular one. Thanks!

ChickenFajitasAndNachos Thu 10-Jul-14 12:06:26

Sounds like you can't really afford it if a 4% rise would make a big difference to your family.

rollonthesummer Thu 10-Jul-14 12:11:22

I'd like a holiday home on the Med, but I can't afford it. Most people can't afford private school and it looks like you can't really either. Of course you want your child to go to the best school, but you will need to look at alternatives. Going into debt would be a mistake.


If you're having to get financial help to afford a 4% hike, it sounds like you'll have to make do with state school like the rest of us. All private schools increase the fees-it will get more and more, the older they get.

ChickenFajitasAndNachos Thu 10-Jul-14 12:17:06

Everyone else does not afford private school fees OP, parents of 7% of children do.

MellowAutumn Thu 10-Jul-14 12:29:20

if 4% causes this much stress I think you would do better with sate school , tutors and activities and LESS STRESS

Unexpected Thu 10-Jul-14 12:30:17

I am amazed that, having seemingly had other children in private education, you were not expecting fee rises of this nature? You mention that 4% is higher than you were anticipating but then you didn't have a fee increase last year so it all balances out, doesn't it? Did you seriously think that fees would remain the same throughout your child's education?

If a rise of 4% per year (regardless of the total amount of which it is a %) is going to cause so much difficulty, you may need to look at alternative plans. Is there a cheaper private school which you can use? State school? Yes, absolutely apply for a bursary if possible but parents who apply for bursaries mid-way through their child's education tend to be ones who have had a catastrophic and unexpected event such as redundancy or death which hugely changes their finances. Not being able to afford the normal fee rises is probably not going to so materially change your finances that you now become eligible for financial support from the school. Worth a go though.

duchesse Thu 10-Jul-14 12:34:50

Back when our children started in independent school, our wages rose in line with fees hikes and everything cost less as a proportion of our income. Nobody expected a massive recession.

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