Are boarding schools pricing out middle income families?



Boarding school fees vary widely from school to school, but whichever one you choose, they represent a huge investment. Fees have trebled since 1990.*.

Boarding School

According to the 2016 Independent Schools Council (ISC) annual census , which reflects the 2015/6 school year, the average boarding fees per term for pupils was £10,317, an increase of 3.6% on the previous year. A total of 70,637 students boarded at 487 ISC member schools. The breakdown across the UK was Scotland 9.1%, Wales 23.5% and England 67.4%.

There are 40 State boarding schools in England and one in Wales, providing State-funded education but charging for boarding. Full boarding at a state boarding school will cost around £4,000 a term. These schools have a reputation for providing a high standard of education.

The Good School Guide ** consider the ten best value-for-money boarding schools (but not necessarily the cheapest) to be :

  • Bishop Stortford College, Hertfordshire,
  • Dollar Academy, Scotland
  • Boothan School, York
  • Campbell College, Belfast
  • Christ College, Brecon, Wales
  • Culford School, Bury St Edmunds
  • Wellington School, Somerset
  • Mount Kelly, Tavistock, Devon
  • St Mary’s School, Shaftesbury, Dorset
  • Ashville College, Harrogate

Britain’s private schools are offering record amounts of financial support to middle-class families who are struggling to keep up with above-inflation fee increases.

The ISC Census revealed that 30.9% of pupils in ISC schools (167,798 pupils in total) received some sort of day or boarding school fee assistance. The total help given was £858m, with over £500m provided directly by schools as means-tested bursaries or discounts.

Despite the costs, there is still a high demand for boarding school places. The level of opportunities and facilities being offered to boarders has increased substantially over the years and is one of the factors that has driven up cost.

Leading boarding schools are recruiting record numbers of foreign pupils, with students from China by far the biggest single overseas group. There is also a growing appetite for British education across the globe. Some schools are capitalising on this by embarking on franchising exercises. For example, Harrow School, London has opened international schools in Bangkok, Beijing, Hong Kong and Shanghai.

*According to a study commissioned by the stockbrokers Killik & Co.

** 19th Edition Good School Guide.

Categories: All, Education, School Fees Planning

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