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What is Covered by the Cost of Private School Fees?

By: Louise Tobias BA (hons) - Updated: 26 Sep 2012 | comments*Discuss
What Is Covered By The Cost Of Private School Fees?

What on earth do they spend all that money on? That will probably be your first reaction when you see your child’s school fees - which are about £3-£4000 per term at most independent schools.

Day to Day Running Costs

A big chunk of school fees cover these daily costs, such as teachers’ and other staff salaries - these make up about two-thirds of a school’s average costs.

Think about all the people who work in a school, it’s not just teachers and the head but also the lunch servers, perhaps gardeners, IT staff, bursary staff and so on. Other running costs also add up, especially after hikes in bills - so just like your household, schools too are having to pay more for heating, water, electricity, insurance, and so on.

Capital Projects

Schools are obviously expensive businesses - on top of the day to day costs discussed above, there are also larger, less frequent capital expenditures to be made. According to the Independent Schools Council, (which is the umbrella organisation for 1,280 independent schools educating 500,000 children) its schools spent £689.5 million on capital projects in 2008, which works out at £1,348 per pupil.

These funds were spent on things like renovating and building new buildings, spending on sports, music, arts and drama facilities, and buying equipment such as computers. Different schools have different levels of planned capital expenditure, and if they have significant building plans lined up they may be aiming to implement fee rises, so look into this.


Sometimes things you might expect to be ‘extras’ are actually things that are provided by schools, paid for out of your fees. For example, children at private schools do not usually have to pay extra for school books - normally schools buy these in bulk, and lend them to students individually on an annual basis for free. Stationery is also normally included, so students receive their paper supplies, exercise books, folders, and notebooks from the school, although pens and so on will usually need to be supplied by parents.

Most private schools do not charge extra for examination entries (which is a good thing, as these can get very expensive, especially if your child is taking a lot of exams), although the cost of re-marking exam papers or asking to see a script will normally be passed on to parents rather than absorbed by the school.

What’s Not Included?

When you come to look at private school fees, and see the annual bills getting beyond even £20,000 at some schools, you might think that everything would be included in the rate - but in many cases, you would be wrong! Extras can add huge sums to your annual school fee bill - because things like lunches (usually about £3 a day), possible breakfasts and dinners at some schools (another £3 each), uniform (normally about £100-200 for the first shop, and extra £10-50s here and there as you child outgrows his or her clothes), book charges (if a child need to own, rather than borrow a textbook, it will normally be added to your bill - estimate about £20/year) all add up.

There will also be extra charges for any events or activities that your child elects to take part in, for example one to one music tuition, and out of school trips,

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