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Lawyers pursuing parents for school fees and schools shutting down

(24 Posts)
EvenBetaDad Sat 16-May-09 11:34:48

Just saw this article in the Times talking about private schools bringing in lawyers to pursue parents for fees and also some parents only being willing to pay fees on a weekly basis to a school that is planning to shut down in July.

Anybody else heard of or had any experiences of this. The credit crunch is beginning to hit very hard by the look of things.

No one should be thinking of paying fees in advance in the current climate in case a school goes bankrupt. You will be at risk of getting none of your advance fee money back.

CreativeZen Sat 16-May-09 11:37:55

Private schools have always pursued their fees vigorously. They can't afford to get a reputation for letting things slide.

In the current climate, schools and parents will have to come to some arrangement wrt advance fees. I'm not sure the schools can insist (well, they can insist at the risk of losing business), but where do the parents think their child will go to school if they lose their place here? They can't all jump the queue into grammar schools.

edam Sat 16-May-09 10:48:30

Is it possible to pay on a credit card? If so, you'd be protected if the school went bust and could claim against the card issuer.

faraday Sat 16-May-09 11:08:05

And again, that presumption (not by you, Zen I hasten to add!) that private school DCs first port of call in the state sector is always the 'Grammar default'! They have no idea how tough they can be to get into!

scienceteacher Sat 16-May-09 17:25:00

Interesting article in the Times today, and very different to what is going on 'on the ground' wrt the school mentioned that is closing in July. I can only say that the family quoted about not being able to find a school place for their daughter have absolutely not explored all opportunities.

That school is not closing because of the credit crunch - they have been struggling for several years, afaik, with many well-estabished tell-tale signs.

clam Sat 16-May-09 17:31:32

What do you mean by 'jump the queue' into grammar schools?

CreativeZen Sun 17-May-09 11:48:51

To many parents who send their children to private schools, it would be abhorrent to exchange that for a state high school. They assume that their child should therefore attend a grammar.

A lot of parents send their children to private school at primary level and then pull them out once they have achieved entry into grammar school (by intensive tutoring in many cases). To them, a state high school is just not a viable alternative to private school.

clam Sun 17-May-09 12:02:03

But how does that mean they 'jump the queue?'
There isn't a queue, as I see it. Grammar schools are state schools, and therefore open to everyone who applies and passes the test, regardless of where they went to primary.
We've had a thread before when some people felt that private school children were somehow 'taking places away from' state school people by defecting from fee-paying.

CreativeZen Sun 17-May-09 18:01:30

I was referring to the assumption on the part of parents removing their child/ren from private school that they somehow have an automatic right to a place at a grammar (seen, by them, as the only state option conscionable). This is why I said they can't "jump the queue". Their children will have to go through the same procedure as all other children to gain access to a grammar, but many of them do not seem to think this applies to them.

poppy34 Sun 17-May-09 18:10:46

interesting as had no idea about that school (its reasonably local and I see a few kids on the train from my station going there).

and clam I am with you - I didn't think there was any option apart from passing the test to get into grammar school so I'm not quite sure how you could jump the queue enve if you wanted to . Presumably if you don't get into the grammar (and can't afford another private alternative) you go to the next state alternative or home educate. Or maybe I'm naive and missing something.

clam Sun 17-May-09 19:44:15

Except I suppose that there might be an assumption that privately-educated kids will have been prepared for the 11+ more than their state "rivals." At school, I mean. Although everyone I know who's been down this route (state - grammar) has been coached privately for months beforehand. Which actually defeats the object of the 11+ being a social leveller.

clam Sun 17-May-09 19:45:52

And also, the fact that people are being squeezed for private school fees means that there is more competition for those precious grammar school places. So less chance for everyone to get in.

CreativeZen Sun 17-May-09 19:55:03

I was referring more to the assumption on the part of the parents that an ex-private school pupil would have an automatic place at a grammar. They won't, which will come as a shock to some parents.

Lilymaid Sun 17-May-09 19:59:24

Grammar schools don't exist in most areas of England, so the opportunity to "jump the queue" doesn't exist. In my area, the choice is only local secondary (comprehensive) or fee paying.

poppy34 Sun 17-May-09 19:59:26

shock that any parent could be that daft creative zen. But clam I would have thought (in my very limited experience) that most of those going for independent schools tend to include the local grammar on their target list too - I suppose you lose the people who drop out as they can afford to go elsewhere even if they get in- but I am not sure it means you get significantly more people trying for grammar schools than you would in non recessionary times.

happywomble Sun 17-May-09 20:54:53

The media appear to be desperate for news stories showing people unable to pay school fees, schools closing etc.

There have been headlines along the lines of "30 private schools closing". When you read the detail they are talking about the number of schools that have closed over the past few years and some of them have not closed but merged. The School in Ashford was reported as closing a month ago but now they are reporting it again with a slightly new slant, giving the impression another school has closed.

This school in Ashford has already announced it will close and given at least a terms notice so I don't know why the parents don't just pay up for the last terms fees.

Private schools close most years not just in a recession. Until recently they rarely made national news.

I'm not saying there will be no school closures as a result of the recession. I'm sure private sector numbers will decline. However the excessive scaremongering is in danger of putting people off private education in my opinion.

Beleaguered Sun 17-May-09 21:42:04

I do think that these parents (and you evenbetadad) are wrong- they have signed a contract saying that they agree to pay fees in advance of term starting.
What makes them think they can go back on the promise they made?
If your child is expelled, or is unhappy in the school, you would lose the money and take it on the chin-why would it be any different if the school goes bankrupt... which it is more likely to do should parents withhold the fees they have promised to pay?

EvenBetaDad Mon 18-May-09 09:33:18

Beleagured - I don't disagree with you. I do think parents should pay fees that are owing. I just wanted to know if anyone knew of other instances of lawyers being called in, parents refusng to pay more than a week at a time or schools closing suddenly.

I do think though that nobody should be under any illusion that advance fees will be repaid if the school closes suddenly. You wil just be a creditor along with everyone else. That was my main point. Once a term has started though it is unlikely a school will close mid way through.

The credit crunch is very very severely affecting private schools. Indeed, I heard of a school yesterday that is losing 10% of its school roll once the term finishes in July. Mainly through parents withdrawing kids at the end of Year 6 and deciding to send kids to 6th form college to do A levels rather than staying on for 6th form at the private school. Suddenly losing 10% of the roll is very hard for a school to adjust to.

LadyMuck Mon 18-May-09 10:17:53

Afraid that I agree that this is more media hype than a real story. Few schools suddenly close without at least some major clues ahead of time. And paying by the week is fairly drastic, and will probably result in you losing your place.

FWIW ds1's school seems to have more pupils transferring in from the state sector than in previous years. It is a 3 form entry prep school. We were looking for an alternative school for ds2, and discovered that another private school with a 2 form entry already has 7 people who have each paid their £100 deposits to go on the waiting list for Year 1. The only private prep school with places locally seems to be one which announced it was closing at Christmas but has since had a recovery plan put in place.

There are of course numerous small (less than 100 pupils) private schools, most of whom aren't registered with the IAPS or ISC. These do wax and wane quite regularly, but I would assume most parents are very aware of what they are signing up to.

Beleaguered Mon 18-May-09 11:44:29

Sorry EBD... it was your sentence "No one should be thinking of paying fees in advance in the current climate in case a school goes bankrupt." That sounded like you were advocating reneging on contracts parents have made with schools.

CC hasn't particularly affected the schools I have contact with- there are still massive waiting lists. The only affect it seems to have had is the fee increase has been extremely modest this year.

EvenBetaDad Mon 18-May-09 13:48:11

Yes I see wht you mean now. What I meant was those schemes some schools run where parents pay fees for several years ahead - not just a term ahead.

I agree about school fees not rising by much - our school has only announced a negligible rise for next year. High league table schools will not be affected much by the CC as numbers wil be well supported by their popularity although it may well be a lot easier to get in if you have the money.

qumquat Wed 03-Jun-09 12:35:54

Most parts of the country don't have grammar schools. Do you all live in grammar school areas? There isn't one within 100 miles of me!

Galava Wed 03-Jun-09 12:46:08

No Grammar schools here either.

But I think this is a story the media want to make more interesting than it actually is.

My DC's are in the private system. Nobody has left this year so far as I know.

Quattrocento Wed 03-Jun-09 13:00:01

CZ: re grammars being "the only state option conscionable" to independent parents ...

I do love the word conscionable!

And i confess to being exactly the sort of parent you are posting about.

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