In January we accepted an offer of a school place for our DC at an independent school (starting in September 2014, joining in Y2, not a major intake for the school but they had space) and paid the fees deposit.
For reasons I won't go into, we are now having major second thoughts about whether it wouldn't work better for us as a family to send said DC to the local (state) primary.
We understand that we will lose the fees deposit, but the contract which we have signed with the school also contains clauses to the effect that:
1. If we do not take up the school place, we are nevertheless liable for the first terms' fees.
2. We can give one term's notice at any time.
How should I interpret these clauses together, as they appear to contradict each other? If we give a clear school term's notice that DC will not be starting in September, does this override the other clause, or do we at least have a reasonable argument to this effect? Or will the school argue that the second clause is only meant to apply once DC has started at the school (the contract does not make this clear)?
There is no contradiction in the wording you have posted. You can give one term's notice at any time. So you can give notice right now under clause 2 and your child will not start in September. But you will still be liable for the fees for the first term under clause 1.
It may be different under the full wording but I doubt it. I think it is very unlikely that you have an argument to avoid paying the fees for one term.
I am wondering what action the school would take if you refused to pay the first term fees - what are the fees? My grand-daughter is at an independent school and is in the senior school so the fees are about £3,000 a term. I suppose the school could take you to the small claims court but I doubt that they would do this. I think if you have made up your mind against the school, then let the ind school know asap so that they are sure of their numbers for the Sept intake. You could say that in the circumstances you are unable to pay the first term fee and see how they respond. These schools aren't short of money so I wouldn't feel bad about not paying the fee.
Thanks all, it's not really the answer I wanted but the one which I thought I'd get!
Yes, given that we only accepted the place a few weeks ago, and didn't actually deprive someone else of a place (i.e. we were offered a place in a year that was, and is still not, full), maybe the school won't hold us to the first term's fees (about £2,700) on top of the fees deposit? I can only try! It looked a lovely school, and we've not decided against it for financial reasons (just that for a variety of reasons the state school seems a better fit) but nevertheless it would be a bit frustrating to have to pay a term's fees for a school that our DC never actually attends. I must try to be less indecisive in future!
Unfortunately we only have notice in May as this is when dd received an offer from an alternative school. The school wrote to us to inform us that as we had not given a full terms notice we were liable for the first terms fees.
If we had given notice by Easter we would have been ok.
Be assure that schools will pursue unpaid fees. They can & do take people to court over fees in lieu.
Thanks Pictures. We won't fight it (not hard, anyway) if the school insist on payment, I just wanted to be clear on where we stood legally (as equally we don't want to pay if we don't have to). We'll be making a final decision and giving notice within the next week, so well over a term's notice, I can only hope that the school will decide not to enforce the contract in this case.
Thanks Coconutty and Pictures - good ideas, especially as we're not ruling out this school at a future point, we really did like it - it's just that for now the state school works better for our family (location is a huge factor).