Education costs


Old-fashioned school deskWhat's the real price of seeing your child through from their ABCs to graduation day? We investigate the costs:

Education costs: the facts

We all have plans for the future - getting that kitchen extension done or buying a second home in the Dordogne. But we also know that parenthood puts a dent in the best-laid financial plans. Even once you're through that first year of your child's life, (which a recent study found costs an eye watering £9,4911) the spending spree is far from over. There are school trips, lunches, uniforms, soaring university fees... the list goes on. Here's a taste of what you can expect to spend to help you forward plan:

Primary school

School kit
Start saving soon, because even in the state sector the costs start before the first day of term. Recent research found that each year a 'back to school kit' (uniform, sportswear, stationery and books, a school bag, a lunchbox, a coat) costs £96 per primary school child.2 Families on benefits or with a low income can be entitled to clothing grants or vouchers from their local authorities so check to find out.3

Sally Greenaway: "As soon as my 14-year-old daughter started secondary school the pressure began to buy her the newest technology. We bought her an Apple Mac from our savings at around £900 but looking back it was too much to have spent. They do need computers to help with homework but my tip is, don't get the latest and most expensive option."

After-school activities
The charity Save the Children4 found that half of all the people surveyed spent more than £10 per child, per week - equivalent to £500 a year or £7,500 over a school lifetime - on out-of-school activities. And over a fifth spend double that. Then there's lunch. Thanks to the drive for healthier school lunches, costs are set to rise by up to 17%, exceeding £2.60 per child per day in the most expensive cases.5

Whether it's preparing for SATS or getting ready for the 11+, 12% of primary school pupils are tutored6 and they can cost anything from £20 to £60 an hour, depending on how qualified they are. 

If you choose to send them for private education like 6.5% of schoolchildren, junior day fees each term range from around £2,000 to £4,000, says Catherine Walters from educational consultants, Gabbitas.

Secondary school

School kit
A recent study found that, even in the state sector, parents have to find £1,000 a year to cover the 'extras' for each child's secondary education7 - and this includes costs such as school uniform, lunches, travel, voluntary contributions to the school and stationery.

Rebecca Williams: "My 11-year-old was suddenly desperate to go on the school skiing trip, and having worked really hard all year I really wanted to send her. But at £800 we simply hadn't budgeted for it. In the end we managed it by selling some old toys, furniture and clothes on eBay and it has been completely worth it."

The average cost is a staggering £1,411 - ranging from £350 per pupil for a trip to the Mediterranean, to £3,000 for a four-week trip to Peru.8 But, while schools can charge for the cost of accommodation during overnight school trips, they aren't allowed to charge more than the accommodation actually costs, so you're protected from profiteering.

Proms have also become an essential part of a teenager's school life. The average cost currently comes in at £244 per person, with one in 10 spending more than £500 and 2% splashing out more than £1,5009.

As for private education, senior school day fees range between £3,000 and £6,000 a term, says Walters, with Eton, Harrow and Winchester approaching £10,000 a term10. But there are lots of scholarships and bursaries and 32.5% of all privately educated pupils get help with their fees11. "If your child has a particular talent, there may be the chance to reduce fees by 50% or possibly more," says Walters. Contact the school of your choice for specific details or use the Independent Schools Councils website for more information.


It's this final hurdle where the costs really mount up, and although in theory it falls on the student's shoulders, most parents will want to contribute as much as they can. Which is a scary prospect considering a BBC survey12 found that over half of universities plan to charge £9,000 each year for all courses, and over a third will charge this for some of their courses.13 The good news though - no money will be charged upfront.

Instead, students will pay the fees back once they graduate and are earning at least £21,000. They will then pay 9% of their income above that threshold, and if they don't clear the debt 30 years after graduation, it will be wiped out.

There will be support for poorer students, although this will be calculated based on their parent's income. Fees for these students are expected to be reduced to somewhere between £2,500 and £6,000 each year. Details of this are due to be published by the Office for Fair Access.14

Michelle Downs: "The biggest surprise cost at university was living expenses, which were much higher than we expected. Luckily our daughter had been left some money by a relative years before, which we convinced her to save for university rather than spend at 16. My tip, to those with babies now, is save little and often. It really does help."

Living costs
Fees aside, the cost of living can be significant. One survey estimates that it costs £3,807 a year in self-catering university accommodation and £3,600 a year in other living costs.15 This includes £10.50 a week on books and equipment, £41.10 on food, £28.29 on other bills, £29.12 on socialising (men spend £33.52, women £25.68) and £14.50 on travel.16 Location is the biggest factor, of course. Students at the London School of Economics can expect to pay the most - £52,319 in total - while those at Manchester will pay the least: £46,537 over three years, including the costs of living.17 There are maintenance grants available, which pay for living costs, and they're set to rise from a maximum of £2,906 to £3,250 per year for those students from households earning less than £25,000. And smaller grants will be offered to students from households with incomes of £42,000.

If you want to start saving for your child's education Barclays can help you weigh up your options.

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1© Guardian 2011. Sourced June 2011. Source

2© Which? 2011. Sourced June 2011. Source 

3© Directgov 2011. Sourced June 2011. Source

4© Which? 2011. Sourced June 2011. Source  

5© Guardian 2011. Sourced June 2011. Source

6© Telegraph 2011. Sourced June 2011. Source

7© GrantsExpert 2011. Sourced June 2011. Source

8© Telegraph 2011. Sourced June 2011. Source

9© Mirror 2011. Sourced June 2011. Source

10© Telegraph 2011. Sourced June 2011. Source

11© Independent Schools Council 2011. Sourced June 2011. Source

12© BBC 2011. Sourced June 2011. Source

13© Directgov 2011. Sourced June 2011. Source

14© BBC 2011. Sourced June 2011. Source

15© Daily Mail 2011. Sourced June 2011. Source 

16© Bright Knowledge 2011. Sourced June 2011. Source

17© Daily Mail 2011. Sourced June 2011. Source

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