School fees: do they deliver value for money?
15th November 2019
Headmistress Alison Melrose discusses independent school fees and why she feels they really do represent good value for money
Private education is getting increasingly expensive in the UK. Indeed, over the last 10 years school fees have risen faster than the rate of inflation in every year. Investing in your child’s education is a huge commitment, particularly so in London where the fees are some of the highest in the country. However; this raises several questions that schools must be ready to face and answer, can the fees be justified?
Independent schools do offer a tailored curriculum, which has the flexibility to get the best out of each pupil. The wellbeing and pastoral care provided supports not only pupils but also parents, especially at potentially stressful key transition times between schools and at exam times. Independent schools can offer exceptional facilities or access to a broad and engaging sports curriculum and enrichment activities. Pupil achievements are truly celebrated, both within and out of school, which allows the development of all-important self-confidence. Visiting speakers inspire and raise ambitions to help children really reach for the skies. Perhaps, most importantly of all, with their global perspective, the soft, social skills learned in an independent school provide pupils with a “passport for life” in the challenging 21st century world.
Nevertheless, independent education is facing many challenges, with unprecedented costs for schools with increased Teachers Pension contributions, challenges of recruiting staff in areas where the cost of living is far higher than teaching salaries can afford, and, of course, the elephant in the room, Labour’s plan to abolish independent schools. This is just the tip of the iceberg; Brexit has had a huge impact on independent schools particularly in London as has the continued bias by Universities towards pupils from maintained schools in an attempt to level the playing field.
Do I believe in an independent education, the answer is very much that I do! The education on offer within independent schools is rich and engaging, full of inspiration and opportunity, small classes and nurturing staff. The preparation for senior school transfer is second to none, children are as prepared as they can be for the challenging 11+ assessment tests and interviews. Specialist staff within independent schools are true experts in their fields and impart their knowledge in a really engaging way and this is how I was introduced to Ada Lovelace the 19th Century English Enchantress of Numbers, a pioneer of her time.
Not all the children in independent schools will go on to the top league table schools and neither should they. An independent education should be what is says on the label, independent.
Our British education system is not terribly flexible with testing often around the age of 10 and 11, when some children just haven’t had enough time to educationally and emotionally find their feet. The pathway to the right school for each child is part of the joy of being an independent school, finding the right match for each personality and supporting and guiding families along the path.
So, school fees, yes, they are expensive, but they do provide you with a truly independent schooling, an education which will prepare your child for the future and support you every step of the way.