How much does private education cost?

10th June 2024

The cost of independent schools fees continues to rise, despite recent falls in the inflation rate. What are your options if you want to give your children a private education?

At a glance

Independent school fees are still soaring with the average cost per child at a private boarding school now £37,032.1

Private education can be affordable, providing you plan properly and give yourself as much time as possible to save.

Take financial advice to help you make the right choice about the most tax efficient way to achieve your goal.

Spending money on private education is often seen as the best way to set your children up for future success. But if you thought choosing the right school – and getting in – was hard, the scale of the fees and the financial commitment required is enormous.

With inflation still above the government's target of 2%, can you afford to go private?

How much does private education cost?

The cost of private education has soared. Fees jumped by an average of 5.1% in 2022, according to Schoolfeeschecker.2  The average cost per child is now £6,944 a term for day pupils, and £12,344 a term for boarders.1 There are big regional variations too. And with the cost of living still rising, private schools have had little choice but to pass energy and food costs on to parents.

There is also the possibility that Labour, if successful at the next general election, could introduce VAT on private school fees, adding a further 20% to the annual costs.

This means that, even if you earn a minimum of £100,000 per year, you could struggle to keep pace with rising school fees.

And there are the ‘hidden’ costs too. Private schooling is a long-term commitment – so you need to factor in a 5% fee increase per year, plus school trips, uniform, and travel if your children will be day pupils. Everything that comes with a quality education – from cricket bats and overseas trips to iPads and art materials. A good rule of thumb is to build in 10% per year.

Putting a child through the private system is one the most significant financial decisions you’ll ever make.

Is private school still worth the money?

Despite the eyewatering costs involved, the prestige of a private school education is still strong. The latest figures (January 2022) from the Independent Schools Council or ISC show a record 544,316 pupils at 1,388 ISC member schools. It’s not simply about the academic grades, small class sizes and sports facilities. For many parents, private education is as much about who you meet, as what you learn. Friendships made in school days can open opportunities in later life too.

Every parent wants to give their children the best education and the best start in life.

How can I afford private schooling?

Although the fees are daunting, the key to making it happen is to start planning as early as you can. Lots of parents have the conversation about public versus private education before having children, putting their name down for a school as soon as they're born - and starting to save.

That way, you’ll have up to ten years’ worth of savings, and the benefit of compound interest, to start them off at secondary school.

It’s a lot of money to find. And everything you save is going to need to work very hard.

Paying for private schooling – income, inheritance or investment?

In general, parents looking to fund school fees fall into three camps. Those who have a lump sum to invest – perhaps an inheritance; those who can pay from their income, so long as they remain in their job and parents who are planning ahead and want to set up a regular savings plan that will see their children all the way through school and university.

There are several options available to help make school fees more affordable - and they can be both tax-efficient and flexible.

Should I use a Cash ISA, or Stocks and Shares to save for school fees?

Building this kind of sum tax efficiently is best done over the long-term. Saving into any tax efficient ISA, either Cash or Stocks and Shares, means you can use your full annual ISA allowance of £20,000 a year before tax – £40,000 if you’re a couple. Your annual ISA allowance may increase by a further £5,000 per year if the government’s proposal to introduce a new British Stocks and Shares ISA goes ahead. However, if you’re going to afford this scale of school fees, putting money into a cash savings account, or a cash ISA, is unlikely to give you the best returns. Even if you allow plenty of time, and interest rates remain relatively high.

Investing in stocks and shares, such as Stocks and Shares ISAs, does have more potential to outperform cash holdings in the mid- or long-term. But, like all stock market investments, it can carry more risk since your investments can fall in value as well as increase.

If you’re considering saving for school fees, taking expert financial advice is a wise move, to determine what level of risk you feel comfortable with.

The value of financial advice

If private schools are on your wish list, start planning. Doing your homework and seeking out trusted, expert advice can prove invaluable. 

After all, what better investment could there be than your child’s future?

If you’d like to talk to a financial adviser about planning for school fees, do get in touch with us today.

The value of an investment with St. James's Place will be directly linked to the performance of the funds selected and the value may fall as well as rise. You may get back less than the amount invested.

An investment in equities does not provide the security of capital associated with a deposit account with a bank, building society or a Cash ISA.

The favourable tax treatment given to ISAs may not be maintained in the future, as they are subject to changes in legislation.

Please note that St. James's Place does not offer Cash ISAs.


1Schoolguide, accessed April 2024.
2Schoolfeeschecker, accessed April 2024

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