In celebration of one of our favourite nights of the year - Bonfire Night - here are just a few suggestions to maximise your financial investment in your child's education. With school fees rising at speeds as rapid as any Guy Fawkes rocket, you'll want to ensure the vast sums do not all go up in a cloud of smoke.
Mix and Match
Mix and match between state and independent as suits your child, your budget, your ability to be flexible i.e. perhaps re-locate and your area’s educational make-up.
The possibilities now are endless and go far beyond the commonly dubbed option of ‘state ‘til 8’ – which means taking advantage of state early years education until prep school, which in reality usually commences at 7+. In a grammar school area, one might go all out with an independent school until 11+, particularly for a girl, hoping to save on senior school fees. Another family with an academic child, might go state primary all the way – moving to be as sure as possible of entrance to good candidate – and then aim for an independent of their choice at 11+. Some might even leave it as late as the GCSE years of 9, 10 and 11, or indeed the sixth form to take advantage of excellent university preparation before making a switch between sectors. All can work brilliantly.
Create your own "extra-curricular"
One cost-effective route we know that has worked well for academically inclined children is a state primary coupled with a whole raft of wonderful extra-curricular sports, language tuition, amazing trips, music camps and competitions sought out and paid for in addition to school provision. It’s amazing what just a fraction of 7 years of independent school fees can buy!
Be your child's own tutor
Do you have a university education you can put to good use? Not for everyone and we don’t suggest that there are not advantages to hiring a professional but for many able parents, with some time and the ability to be patient and encouraging (if it’s going to be “homework 2.0” and you’re inclined to tear your hair at the thought it’s not for you!), you can find the right text books to support you and easily provide tuition in 11+ tests such as English, Maths and Verbal and Non-Verbal Reasoning. With up to a third of parents now paying for tutoring at around £40 per hour, and tutoring running for up to two years prior to the entrance tests, you could save at least enough for a family holiday. If your child then gains entrance to a selective state school, the savings will run and run.
Bursaries and scholarships
With scholarships for academic, musical, artistic and sporting merit, often running to 10 per cent of fees, it won’t make the difference between a school being possible or not, but it is definitely worth turning up for a scholarship audition. Bursaries meanwhile are quite rightly rigorously means tested. But for those who qualify can be far more significant. Quite a few of the major UK independent schools have re-visited their bursary provision in recent years, but are keeping quite quiet about the new level of funding available, we’re talking larger numbers of 50 or 100 per cent fee reduction. DO investigate.
Savvy financial planning
This may come more naturally to many but it is eye-opening how much thinking ahead and planning tax effectively can suddenly bring a hugely expensive independent school education within reach. Talk to the school about 'fees in advance schemes' or to investment specialists such as Killick & Co, or look at pay monthly providers such as SFP
There are several grants , charitable trusts and funds that provide fee assistance for education IF you fullfil the criteria – these could be by dint of your location, county of birth, choice of musical instrument, need to travel, vulnerability, disability, family in the services or many more. They can particularly come into their own if a family with children part way through independent school education falls upon harder times. See the Educational Trusts’ Forum website.
If you think that boarding schools are the preserve of the super-wealthy, then think again. There are fees to pay, but they are greatly reduced as often simply the cost of lodging, rather than tuition, plus lodging. All the fun of Mallory Towers at a greatly reduced price.
Choose the right school
And finally, there can't be anything that feels more like poor value than paying for a school, where your child isn't happy. So, investing the time in the selection process initially will pay dividends later. Sometimes, even with enormous thought and effort a school does not deliver, we say vote with your feet - it may seem daunting, but your child will thank you.
Take a look at our latest testimonials to see how we have helped families do just this. Do get in touch, we'll always return your message within 24 hours.