When should I pay a deposit for a private school?(16 Posts)
My daughter is (rather late) thinking of joining a private school in September in year 9. Following an initial test, they have made her a provisional offer of a place depending on how she does in the CE exams in June. They are already asking for a £1000 deposit, some of which would be returnable if she didn't get the place or didn't accept the place. is it reasonable of them to ask for this deposit at this stage before a firm offer has been made and accepted?
It's not usual. They usually wait until they have made a firm offer and you've accepted, and it's either returned at the end when your child leaves or it's taken off the first term's fees. I've never known a deposit to be paid otherwise.
I'd have a nose at their records with Companies House as this doesn't sound right. There's signs that they are struggling financially; have they lost a lot of staff? Are they recruiting a lot of NQT's? Are the grounds being slowly sold off? Do the buildings need attention? Are they losing children? The last thing you need is to put your child in a school which is in financial trouble.
We paid a registration fee, non refundable, before DD sat the entrance exam for her high school - starting in September - and also before the assessment day at her current prep. But this was a relatively small amount - think the high school one was about £50.
Neither asked for a deposit until they officially offered her a place at the school, then we had a set amount of time to pay it (2 or 3 weeks iirr).
Deposit when accepting a conditional offer isn't unusual, and big name schools do it too.
Schools such as St Paul's ask for it 4 terms before entry.
This is usual with the old traditional public schools, it's to stop you holding lots of conditional offers.
"This is usual with the old traditional public schools,"
According to friends who have had to do this many traditonal boarding schools will ask for up to half a terms fees so about £5000 18 months before entrance only returnable if your DC will not be going for a genuine and unforseeable reason E.G. your head advises you that your child will not pass the schools stated CE pass mark.
It sounds right for CE.
Most schools will pre-test a couple of years before CE, and they will ask for a large deposit then, refundable if unsuccessful at CE.
Even schools that do their entire entrance process in the same year (ie 11+ schools will get the deposit off you and put you into the term's notice system in February/March.
For September 2013 entry the earliest the school could have asked for a deposit would have been January 2012, and most of them do. As someone mentioned above, they are trying to discourage people from hanging on to multiple places and then dropping out at the last minute.
I don't think it is unreasonable for them to ask for a deposit at this stage. Your offer will be "subject to CE result" I assume so unless there is any reason to suppose she won't get in, your offer is pretty firm.
I have had experience of this and once in the form of working in the finance department of a prep school. When I joined the latter did not charge a deposit although required that parents sign a contract that if said they would give a term's notice, including before they arrived ie if you pull out you owe the first term's fees. And a lot of people tried to get out of this leaving us with spaces in classes where we had turned people away as we were supposedly going to be full.
Often they disappeared and the only way of getting the money they should have paid was court action. Having a grand in the bank already mitigates the loss to the budget a bit for the school- not necessarily an indicator of a school in financial trouble. More likely one which doesn't want to find out in September that it will a lot fewer pupils than it thought!
Most schools are charities, so their income and outgoings have to match. If they have an empty space, which was budgeted as a full fee payer, then their finances would be very upset, which could have quite a serious knock-on effect. Losing 14k a year could mean that they don't employ a class assistant, or cancel their subscription to various online resources.
No one ever fails CE so the conditional offer is as good as firm.
"No one ever fails CE"
Two boys at my DS's old prep did admittedly both were aiming at very over subscribed super selective.
You don't exactly "fail" CE just score below a school's minimum admission criteria. However as CE is marked by potential school they already have an idea who they really want , expect to do well and who might be borderline since most pre-test now. Even then a particular talent, for say sport or music , could allow more leeway.
You only really miss out if the school has mucked up its list and has too many holding conditional offers. Encouraging an early 'first choice' by requiring deposits several terms in advance means the lists and waiting lists settle earlier and everyone can proceed to exam with much more confidence.
You only fail CE by going against the prep school advice and apply to a totally inappropriate school, and then bombing.
However, once a pretest has been passed and place offered, no school wants to have a vacancy mid June, when all possible candidates will have secured places, paid deposits, and subject to notice at other schools.
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