Unable to take on independent school place and fees.(19 Posts)
Hoping someone out there can help...we previously accepted a place at an independent school but for a variety of personal reasons in the last few months, are now severely unable to take on the costs associated with this.
We have been informed that a full terms fees will still need to be paid, as we did not provide a full terms notice. The school do have a considerable amount of time to find a replacement as we did inform them as soon as we could. This was toward the end of April but to date we haven't heard more from them. We have given notice for the whole of next term before summer break and the time in April and May. The only issue we could see is they had the wording a full terms notice to be given but in their letters don't define "full term" which is usually defined in other schools we have seen. We aren't trying anything underhanded and moving to another independent and have offered to provide details but aren't hearing back from the school.
They have informed us our deposit won't be returned which I accepted but to pay a whole term is not something we can financially cover now. As my daughter has not even started at the school the cost does seem very harsh, especially as they will likely fill the vacancy we leave. If anyone has been in a similar situation I'd be grateful for any negotiation advice.
Thanks in advance to anyone who can help.
* We have given notice for the whole of next term before summer break and the time in April and May.*
Your OP is a bit confusing her: did you give them notice before their Easter break? That is what they will mean by a full term's notice - schools are now well into the final term of the school year so there is no "next term" before the summer break.
A full term's notice is absolutely standard afaik: alhough it seems as if there is plenty of time for them to fill your space, in truth, most families have made the decision about where they will be sending their children well before this, and schools are now recruiting for next September intake, not this one.
I agree with pp , did you give notice before the Easter holidays ? If the answer is no then yes you are liable , irrespective of whether they fill the space. Please be under no misapprehensions private schools do take people to court over this sort of thing , if you really cannot afford it perhaps make them an offer and see if they'll accept that or payment in instalments .
Usually a term means from the last day of the previous term so that would have been in March. This is enforceable and they may well pursue you for the money. You can try and negotiate a sum which is closer to their loss but at this stage you don't know what the loss is and solicitor's letters will roll in. They are not willing to negotiate it would appear so you will have to pay. The best you can do is try and agree monthly payments over 2 or 1 year. Their charges should be reasonable but must parents will have settled where their children are going now and there won't be many children still looking so the place could remain vacant if there is no waiting list. If there is a waiting list you could try a bit more negotiation. Keep trying to contact the bursary. It's bad luck but there it is.
It is a difficult one - on the one-hand while such schools are often charities, their charity side is towards those attending - by taking up a place and then releasing it late you do make it very difficult for the school to find another child to replace yours - so they will be business-like, it is why there is a contract and why you should think very carefully before signing it...
such schools also have to walk a careful line between parents who really do have financial difficulties and those who are playing a game (many!) and claim difficulties while still managing 3 holidays abroad, a yacht and nice cars!
however the bursars tend to be very experienced in this area, so I would suggest that before you do anything else you:
- go and see the bursar
- explain why and how you have had such a change in financial circumstances
- acknowledge that there is a term of fees to pay (if they go to court they will win as there is plenty of precedence and their contracts are very well written)
- explain your difficulty
- ask for help
- be prepared to be painfully open about your finances
- ask for payment terms
- ask if they can waive any percentage if they fill the place
the bursars would prefer to have a conversation with you - if they don't or you try and argue whether it is valid they will simply pass the details to their lawyers and they will take you to court - where you will then have issues with your credit file, plus the original bill, plus costs to pay...
talk to them - ask for them to help - they are human!
Thanks all for your quick detailed replies, sorry for the confusion. We only informed them in April after the final term had commenced so I think reading all this the only option is to contact them again to try and negotiate what I can...
Look at the FCA website as it may be an unfair contract.
"Examples of potentially unfair terms include those that:
charge the consumer a large sum of money if they don’t fulfil their obligations under the contract or cancel the contract (e.g. a consumer does not pay an insurance premium or mortgage repayment on time)"
If the school place is given to another child, which seems likely given the amount of notice you gave, they have no real loss. They should only recover the cost to the school. Otherwise it is punitive and not fair under contract law. If you can find out if someone else is getting your daughter's place that might help.
I know parents trying to get out of fees as waiting list places mean that they want to accept a grammar place or preferred independent school.
That is not your case but you are being lumped in with them. If you go in personally and tell when where you going (with proof), they may decide to waive the fees.
If you go in and tell them you're off to a top grammar, I don't think they will be sympathetic.
A full term's notice has been held to be fair over and over again in court.
If they do not fill the place, then the school's loss is much greater. They may have lost pupils who they could only waitlist in the first round (as they go for the certainty of a place elsewhere rather than risk the WL).
Your best bet is to be really really really nice and apologetic to them and ask (not demand) that they waive it if they fill the space. You've got no recourse in law and schools will take parents to court for this. The other thing is that you could ask to pay in instalments over the year.
It's painful I know. We had to pay a full terms notice for a school dd never ended up attending but it's what you sign up to.
Oh I really sympathise, this must have been difficult for you. Have you spoken with the school to see if there is any bursary help you could apply for?
What year was your daughter going to go into and how full is the school? Although that won't alter the school's right to ask for the fees, you may get a more sympathetic hearing if they fill the place.
I've worked in independent schools and both my DS's went to them. IME it's generally accepted that a terms notice to leave means giving written notice that your child will be leaving/not taking up a place on the first day of a new term. A day later and most schools can and will charge you the fees for the next term as well.
I agree with others talk to the bursar nicely as akkak says they are human, if you have a genuine reason: serious illness redundancy etc, for such significant change in your finances detail it and try to see of you can work something out.
Unfortunately the deadline would have been at Easter , a full term ahead of Autumn. You only option is to try to negotiate with the Bursar. If they can fill the space they may be able to mitigate the loss. Generally they will require a full term's fees but you might be able to reduce this in certain circumstances or make a payment plan.
Thank you all for your kind support and comments..I will contact the bursar and see what they say.
Definitely agree with pp, go and explain your position to the bursar.
The fact that you haven't had a better offer, or going to a state grammar or something will be in your favour.
fwiw, we had dd's new parents evening last week. I was surprised that the intake was bigger than usual. the registrar told me that they always lose a good few between now and September. So it's not unusual, but if you have had a sudden change in circumstance they will hopefully be more understanding.
My friend has now got bailiffs on her case and they can't afford it definitely try negotiating with school but you are liable
I wondered if you could try and negotiate a bursary to enable you to still take up the place? From what I understand lots of independent schools have struggled to fill to capacity - they might be able to offer some assistance
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