Myth of Private School Fees
Last week on the radio a headteacher argued that sending your child to private school is just a matter of choice. Some parents, he suggested, choose to spend their hard-earned income on educating their children instead of on a new car or a holiday – it was simply down to parental priorities.
A closer look at the figures shows this “choice” argument is bunkum. The websites of some of Wales’s 66 independent schools show fees for a year 11 pupil hovering at around £4,000 a term. Some, such as Howells School, Cardiff and Rougemont School, Newport are a little cheaper at £3,574 and £3,664 a term respectively. Others are more expensive – Rydal Penrhos in Conwy is £4,155 a term and Christ College, Brecon is a stonking £4,915 a term. And this is just for ‘day’ pupils – boarding is even more. At the very least, parents will have to fork out nearly £11,000 a year on fees, as well as the cost of (expensive) uniforms, equipment and all those little extras. And that’s just for one child.
Compare this with household incomes. More than a quarter (287%) of all households with dependent children have incomes that are so low that school fees just for one child would take more than half their gross weekly income. For these families on less than £400 gross a week, the ‘choices’ are about whether to eat or heat their homes, not whether to forgo a holiday for school fees.
Even for the 54% of families that have gross incomes of less than £700 a week (£36,400 a year), it is hard to imagine how they could afford to spend nearly a third of their gross income – before tax, housing costs or anything else – on school fees. The Daily Telegraph reports that school fees that were once within reach of parents with jobs such as architects, police officers and architects are now unaffordable – they have never been in the frame for school dinner ladies, production operatives or bus drivers.
The schools do, they stress, offer various bursaries and assisted places schemes, and these undoubtedly help some pupils from lower income families to attend. But this help can only ever be for a small minority of pupils, otherwise how would the schools survive – they are after all businesses.
So I’m afraid that the headteacher on the radio was wrong. Some parents do indeed have a choice of whether to pay school fees or buy a holiday or new car. But for the great majority, sending a child to private school is a choice they cannot make, because private education is simply too expensive.
« Don’t forget the region in ‘city region’ Stepping up Stop Smoking Services »