School Fees Advice

The cost of private education for your children is likely to be the largest expense you undertake.

Spreading the cost over a longer time period will make the education more affordable and by applying tax planning, offer the opportunity to increase your long term wealth.

Having decided to educate your children independently, is it important to take appropriate advice to ensure the continuity of their education.

Good advice may reduce the cost of education by 50% or more and ensure that your child completes their independent education regardless of a change in circumstances.

If the costs of an independent education are not planned properly, it could prove serious for both the child and the parent at a later date.


All SFIA advisers are fully qualified and are given further specialist training in school fees planning. Non specialists do not have the required expertise to forecast, plan and reduce costs.

If you go directly to product providers, you will need to research the options thoroughly and shop around. SFIA already have extensive knowledge of the marketplace and can select the most appropriate products for you and obtain preferential rates, saving you time, effort and money.

There are a variety of reasons why so many people choose SFIA. Please follow this link for a full description of all of the advantages we offer, but in summary:

  • We specialise in school fees planning and have a network of experts throughout the UK
  • As independent financial advisers we offer unbiased advice and select products from the entire marketplace
  • We are a well established organisation able to gain preferential rates for our clients

You are able to save significant sums of money by planning over the long-term. The savings result from choosing the best investments, releasing equity efficiently when required and by careful tax planning. Register your interest for free consultation via our enquiry form.

One secret of paying school fees is to plan early. Money invested in insurance policies when your child is a baby will provide tax-free sums. Even as little as five years before your child is due to go to school, there are investments which will help to reduce the financial burden.

Spreading the cost and fully utilising tax benefits are other important techniques.

As independent financial advisors, we are able to offer products from the whole marketplace.

As school-fees specialists we are able to select and tailor products to meet your specific school fees requirements. Every plan is uniquely configured to meet all of your needs.

This is not necessarily the case. SFIA will design a plan to meet your budget.

SFIA has designed bespoke software that allows them to design and amend school fees plans. SFIA has its very own comprehensive school fees database. We use the actual fees from a particular school when designing our plans. SFIA’s administrative team are there to ensure that you receive the right amount of money at the right time.

Unfortunately previous covenant schemes have all been abolished therefore we need to consider all remaining opportunities such as:

  • Children’s annual income and capital gains tax allowances
  • Annual tax-free investment allowances
  • Pensions
  • Investing in HMRC approved schemes
  • Trust planning
  • Options to re-assign life policies and investment bonds
  • Tax-free returns available through offsetting against a personal mortgage
  • Opportunities available through offshore investments

This is where personal financial advice is particularly important. If you were advised by SFIA your original plan is likely to have contingency built into it.

If there is still a shortfall, additional equity may be utilised and the plan extended over a longer period.

If you haven’t built up enough funds in advance, the alternatives are to pay-as-you-go out of income or borrowings. A common solution is to release equity from your property to make school payments and plan to pay back the borrowing over a longer period. A School Fees Pension Plan will allow you to pay the borrowings out of you tax free lump sum and realise an increased income from your pension.

Every family is in a different position, but the biggest single deciding factor is not the level of fees but the length of time available to build up a fund to pay those fees. Some of the factors that we are fully aware of and will ensure are:

  • Is it good value?
  • Is it safe?
  • It is low risk?
  • It is tax efficient?
  • What are the hidden costs?
  • It is timely?
  • Is it flexible?

If you own your home, then you may be able to release equity from its value. Alternatively, you may need to borrow money as a secured or unsecured loan.

It may be possible to set up an efficient draw down of capital secured against your property to spread the cost of school fees over a longer time period. You only pay interest on the money that is gradually withdrawn.

It is possible to apply for an insurance plan which will pay a monthly tax-free benefit in the event of death or diagnosis of a critical illness. The cost of this cover will depend on the level of the benefit, your age and state of health.

SFIA do not fund school fees directly, but you may wish to read the Financial Assistance section on this website. SFIA will save you money by finding the most cost effective plan to meet your needs.

Independent Education

Basic fees vary widely. They depend on whether schools are educating younger or older children, day or boarding and where they are situated.

Here are some typical figures (per term) for 2010.

Type Attendance Cost range
Pre-Preparatory Day £1500 – £2700
Preparatory Day £2000 – £3750
Preparatory Boarding £4250 – £6250
Senior Day £2500 – £5000
Senior Boarding £5000 – £8250

It is important to make allowances for uniforms, books, games equipment, excursions and other necessities.

Many senior schools and a few junior schools offer scholarships to attract bright or talented pupils to the school. They are usually awarded after a competitive examination, for academic, musical or artistic merit. Scholarships vary in value but rarely cover the whole fee; they might be worth as little as 10%.

Many schools also have bursaries – grants from the school – to help you pay the fees. These are often awarded after a ‘means test’ of family income.

Some schools offer grants to children of clergy, teachers and armed forces personnel. Others give help to children of former pupils, single parent families and orphans or concessions for brothers and sisters. You should contact schools to find out the details and how much awards are worth.

Child Trust Funds (CTF) became available in January 2005, with the government saying they would be issued by April 2005 ‘at the latest’. Each child born on or after 1 September 2002 will receive an initial lump sum payment of £250 (£500 for poorer families) from the government. A voucher will be sent to the Child Benefit claimant, usually the parent, which is then used to open a CTF account with the provider of their choice, likely to be a bank, building society or investment company.

You can contact specific schools about scholarships. We have compiled some useful links regarding funding.

Many independent schools admit pupils with special educational needs, disabilities or illnesses. In all cases schools are concerned that children are helped to develop to the best of their ability and do not suffer academically because of their handicaps. Usually these are children whose needs are not sufficiently severe or complex to warrant a statement of special educational needs under the Education Act 1996 and can be catered for in a mainstream school.

If you think your child may have special needs, make sure you get plenty of advice. Your local library or Citizens’ Advice Bureau will have details of groups with expertise in this area. Alternatively, you can contact the Advisory Centre for Education. The first step, however, is to talk to your child’s class teacher about your concerns.

Some schools offer occasional or ad-hoc boarding which means children stay the occasional night (or nights) on a one-off basis; this could help parents who may be considering a move to boarding for their children or who are going to be away for a short time and would find it advantageous to know their son or daughter can be well cared for on the school site.

For more information on boarding you might also find the Boarding Schools’ Association (BSA) website useful.

The International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma Programme is an internationally recognised qualification for students aged 16 to 19. It is based around detailed academic study of a wide range of subjects, including languages, the arts, science, maths, history and geography.

It leads to a single qualification, rather than separate qualifications for individual subjects. However if you don’t achieve the full diploma, you’ll be awarded a certificate for each subject taken.

It’s available in more than 100 schools and colleges in the UK, both state and independent, and can be taken in English, French or Spanish. It’s designed to encourage students to: learn how to learn, ask challenging questions, develop a strong sense of your own identity and culture and develop the ability to communicate with and understand people from other countries and cultures.

The IB Diploma Programme is at level 3 on the National Qualifications Framework.

Class size at Independent School normally averages 15 to 20 pupils, compared with nearly 26 pupils in state primary schools.

In GCSE groups the number is around 12-18, and at A Level between 4 and 12. These figures vary from one school to another and according to subjects. The majority of the schools have a staff:pupil ratio that ensures students receive plenty of individual attention in accordance with their needs.

Many independent senior schools set some form of entrance test. The difficulty of these tests and the standard required for admission vary and will be related to the type of school.

Entry to senior school is usually by way of a written examination, often combined with an interview.

Most prep schools prepare pupils for entry to independent senior schools. Many use the Common Entrance examinations for boys and girls, principally at 13-plus or 11-plus.

Independent schools set term and holiday dates themselves and are often different to those of State schools. Terms are, in general, slightly shorter than the State sector.

Autumn Term (also known as Michaelmas term in the private sector): From the beginning of September to mid-December.

Spring Term (known as Lent term in the private Sector) from the beginning of Jan. to mid/late March, depending on Easter’s dates.

Summer Term (known as Trinity term in the private sector): from early/mid April to mid July.

Independent Schools take pride in the nurturing of pupils regardless of their ability. Children are given individual attention and are developed to fulfill their potential.

Students with learning difficulties are given additional support.