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The private education conundrum, just how much does it cost?

The private education conundrum, just how much does it cost?

Decisions, decisions: Is private education better than public schooling?

Deciding whether or not to privately educate children seems to be a popular topic of conversation in recent client meetings. Having attended a state school and being child free, it’s not something I’d ever given a lot of thought to.

So, I undertook some research and spoke to a friend who’d privately educated his children, to try to understand why it might be worth considering if private education is better than public, as well as the costs involved.

Public education vs private education

Growing up, private education was for what I saw as the ‘rich kids’. As a child, everything in your world is your normal so for me, Driffield School was a great place to be. I do however distinctly remember the first time I experienced a private school and my awe at the spectacular surroundings when the rounders team I was on went to compete at Hymers College.

The school itself looks like it should be used on the set of Bridgerton and the grounds, well the grounds are just beautiful and sprawling. I imagine I’d be as impressed now as my eleven-year-old self was.

Traditionally, private education was deemed as only achievable for the very wealthy. Today, however, I’m seeing a different generation of parents who want to be able to privately educate, and are willing to plan ahead to make it affordable.

Wanting the absolute best for your child is nothing new, but the severity of the financial sacrifices parents are willing to make to get them there certainly feel more extreme than ever.

Why is private education better than public?

Speaking to my friend was quite enlightening as although his family income is good, he’s not wealthy to the level at which private education is easily affordable to him. Putting his children through private schooling meant making financial sacrifices and long term, it has delayed his ability to retire at the time he would have liked.

So why do it? For him, at the time, he felt like he had no choice. The kids were at a school which was not only poor academically but also had issues with crime.  It was a case of needing to privately educate his children to offer them the best opportunity he could, along with the fear of what could happen by leaving them in situ.

Other reasons to consider private education include:

  • A wider curriculum: Private schools are not limited to teaching the national curriculum. There may be a wider range of subjects on offer and there are regular opportunities to expand knowledge through extra-curricular activities and events.
  • A ambitious and aesthetic environment: From my research, most private schools look like fabulous environments to be in. They don’t look like the state school I went to, that’s for sure. The facilities are extensive and they seem to have everything you could possibly need.
  • A close knit community: Class size appears to be lower than a typical state school which I would imagine leads to more student and teacher one-on-one time. My friend’s experience was that progress was closely monitored and action plans were put in place to help develop any weaker areas.
  • Exam results: Exam pass rates look strong, though that’s not to say that if you find the right state school, the same could be achieved.
  • Enthusiasm for education is at the core: It’s a confidence building environment. Your children will mix with a variety of different people from different backgrounds. My friend told me that his children’s eyes were opened to a world of opportunity and success. They have belief in themselves, and feel that the sky is the limit in terms of what they can achieve. It made them ambitious.

The cost of private education in the UK: just how expensive is it?

I’ve done a little research on the cost of privately educating a child in the area I live in. What I’ve found is that from the age of 3 children can attend a preparatory school before progressing to Junior school, Senior school and then Sixth Form meaning they could be in education for 15 years before contemplating next steps such as University.

The early years are the cheaper ones with the school I looked at costing £6,600 per year for Reception year. This increases as your child ages with the cost in the latter years being £12,417 per year. I totted up fifteen-years of education (at today’s prices – no inflation taken into account) and reached the figure of £150,886.

And yes, that is for one child.

Clearly the cost of private education will vary from school to school but it was interesting to see the level of money that could be needed.

Source at 14/4/22: Hessle Mount School & Hymers College website.

How to fund private school education

For a lot of us that feels like an eye watering amount of money, but can you put a price on the value of your child’s education? It’s also probably worth noting that bursaries are sometimes available, so if your income isn’t sufficient, there may be other ways to make private schooling a reality.

Obviously there are additional costs on top of the school fees. Uniform has to be bought and all those extra-curricular activities need to be paid for. Alongside this, as with any school, there are different levels of wealth.

Keeping up with the trust fund kids may not be possible, making it harder for them to fit in. Character building may be one way to look at it, mind.

The final cost to consider is that of time. My friends children had 3 hours of homework every night and school holidays were much longer than those at state schools.

Could you take nine weeks off in summer or would you need to pay for childcare? What’s the cost of keeping them entertained for that time? For the average parent who can’t have nine weeks enjoying a villa in Tuscany, these are all things that need to be factored in.

Is private education worth the hype?  

I’m not sure that I’m the best person to answer this question. I can certainly see the advantages and if it was easily affordable I think it would be a route I’d explore further – if I had children of course! However, I also believe that given the right support, children have the potential to excel in any environment. My niece is studying medicine and she didn’t need a private education to achieve that.

Now that the years of funding private education are behind him, I felt it only fair to ask my friend for his thoughts. Afterall he has had first-hand experience of it. What he told me was that it started off affordable, but soon became harder as fees increased and he had two children in education at the same time.

Bigger sacrifices were needed as time went on. Looking back, he can see how his children have benefited but he can also see what he had to give up to be able to send them. His reflection was that he’d be on the fence if he was making that decision again, and that it would probably come down to the quality of the state school.

His wife however was a little more off the fence and said, “if you are reasonably intelligent and have loving and supportive parents, do you really need a private school?”

Finding financial assistance for private education

Honestly, if you are in the camp where it’s not easily affordable then you need to get planning. Investigate the cost of private education in your area and think about what age you would want to start it from. Finally, you need to sit down with a professional to work out the best way for you to make this dream a reality. This will help you to gauge the level of sacrifice you’d need to make.

I hope that’s made some interesting reading. I’m not an expert on private education but I have to say it’s been a real eye opener and I’ve certainly enjoyed learning more about it.

For more help and advice or to receive a complimentary guide covering wealth management, retirement planning or Inheritance Tax planning, contact Yorkshire Financial Planning on 01482 275540 or complete our contact form here.

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