How much does private school cost?

Weighing up state vs private schooling can be a minefield. Not only are there the financial implications, but there’s the logistics of the school run, SEND provision, academic data and pastoral support to consider. All this whilst identifying the school that best fits your child's needs and personality.

Let’s tick one of these factors off – here’s our School Guide run down on what parents can expect to pay when choosing a private school for their child.


How much are average private school fees?

Depending on whether the school is primary or secondary, boarding or day, will affect the cost of private school fees considerably. So too will living in the South or within the boundaries of Greater London.

According to the Independent Schools Council (ISC) Census, the average fees per term in 2022 are as follows:

Age Group

Boarding fees/
boarding school/

per term

Day fees/
boarding school/

Day fees/
day school/

per term

Sixth Form












Overall Fees / Term





All private school fees vary by region; however the majority of pupils attend day schools with an average fee of £5,218 per term which equates to £15,655 per year. This is an increase of 3.1% since the last ISC census, carried out in 2021, albeit one of the lower increases to be seen over the past decade.

If you live in the North-West of the UK, you can expect to pay an average day school termly fee of £4,500, whilst London families can expect to pay just under £6,250 per term.

All the above private school fees do not reflect the additional associated charges for school transport, extra-curricular activities, books, laptops or uniform (as we explain in our private school  'hidden extras' blog); however, they also do not reflect the large variety of bursaries and scholarships that are available to families across the UK.


Scholarships and bursaries for private schools

According to the ISC, the number of bursaries and means-tested scholarships awarded to private school pupils has been increasing since 2000.

A total of 180,524 pupils currently receive help with their fees, which represents 34.0% of all private school pupils; the value of this help totals nearly £1.2bn, an increase of 4.8% since 2021. It is therefore well worth investigating your child’s eligibility for an ever-increasing range of bursaries and scholarships.


Means-tested bursaries

Reduced-fee or free private school places are called bursaries or assisted places. In order to identify whether or not your child is eligible, you would need to contact the private school’s admissions team. It is also well worth checking out the Royal National Children’s SpringBoard Foundation, an organisation that pairs up low-income families with private boarding schools across the UK.

In order to qualify for private school means-tested bursaries, generally families need to meet a set of specific criteria:

·       Low-income families

·       Looked After Children (LAC)

·       Previously Looked-After Children (PLAC)/Special Guardianship Order (SGO)

·       Unaccompanied Asylum-Seeking Children (UASC)

·       Children on a Child-Protection Plan (CPP)

·       Children on a Child-in-Need Plan (CiN)

·       Young Carer (with significant caring responsibilities)

·       Children with significant children’s services involvement ("edge of care")

·       If state-funded places are not available to meet a pupil’s needs as specified on their education, health and care plan (EHCP) or statement, then local authorities are required to fund places at a private special school.

Bursary applications require a parent or guardian to share financial details with the private school in question. The forms include a declaration that helps the school establish whether or not the child is eligible for means-assessed financial support. Bursaries are usually re-assessed each year and can be withdrawn if financial circumstances change. The fee reduction is set on a case-by-case basis and will depend on the bursary provision that the school has at its discretion.

Some private school bursaries also help to cover the additional costs associated with a termly school fee such as uniform, IT equipment, extra-curricular trips or transport costs which can often amount to 10% of the actual annual school fees.

Other types of school bursaries

Fewer in number, non-means-tested bursaries or fee-reductions are usually awarded to families who are:

·       Employed as part of HM Forces

·       Members of school staff

·       Have siblings at the school

·       Members of clergy

Each private school will have its own rules and requirements for staff and sibling discounts, so it is worth making direct enquiries with the school admissions’ office.

Private school scholarships

It might surprise you to learn that the range and diversity of non-means-tested scholarships has increased in recent years. Although statistically more money across the private school sector now goes into means-tested bursaries, there are still some considerable savings to be made if your child can meet the private school’s scholarship requirements.

Most private secondary and sixth form schools offer traditional scholarships that acknowledge academic, sporting and musical talents, however, there are a growing number of scholarships that honour pupils who excel in art, drama, dance, chess, physics and sailing for example.

Although competitive to win, fee reductions for non-means-tested scholarships can range from anything between 5% and 110% (the extra 10% includes additional fees for transport, supplies, uniform etc), with the average reduction residing somewhere around 10 and 15%.

It is worth considering that the Government Music and Dance Scheme is still active for any child seeking to choose a vocational private school.  The scheme provides assistance with private school  fees at eight independent schools and 21 elite centres for advanced training.

Are private schools affordable?

Although it’s said that you cannot put a price on a good education, it seems that in today’s financial climate, choosing to go the private route is by no means the easy pathway.

With rising costs of living, inflation at a 40-year high, interest rate rises and a 3.1% average rise (lower than previous annual price rises) in school fees since 2022, the reality of footing the private school bill is becoming harsher.

For a family with two children, ISC census data would suggest that private day school fees could reach £31,310 per year. In reality, for a 40% taxpayer that equates to about £52,000 of pre-tax earnings, this means that even someone earning a minimum of £100,000 per year could struggle to pay school fees alongside other rising living costs. Boarding fees would of course be much higher.

Should it become untenable to continue paying private school fees for any reason, then it is worth getting in touch with The Canon Holmes Memorial Trust. The Trust provides financial assistance to parents and carers who, due to a change in family finances or circumstances, can no longer meet their private school financial commitments.

It is also worth noting that, the Educational Trusts' Forum can provide grants via one or more of their members in their association of independent charitable educational trusts.