If you are currently visiting school open days and weighing up state versus independent options, it’s worth considering the ‘extras’ bill that comes on top of the school fees each term.
Extra costs are not necessarily optional. We have listed those you should expect, together with some cost-saving ideas.
Additional costs vary from school to school, and even within a school, each parent’s ‘extras’ bill will vary depending on their child’s activities. Some schools say their fees are all-inclusive, but even boarding schools will charge extra for a one-to-one activity such as music lessons. Also boarding pupils can rack up expenses on items such as newspapers and insurance premiums. Boarding schools will supply a comprehensive list of the extras boarding pupils can expect.
Most private schools require children to wear a uniform. These may also include a specified coat, bag and a uniform change from summer to winter. A few schools also require extra items such as kilts, hats or a change of blazer in sixth form or for prefects. Most schools have a uniform and kit list with a link online.
EXAMPLE COST: £225 per year (assuming you get a couple of years out of a blazer and other items)
COST SAVING IDEAS: Some schools allow items that are not school-specific not to be purchased at one of the school outfitters, but elsewhere, which could save you money. Examples include white shirts, colour specific trousers, socks, shoes and V-neck pullovers. You can really save money if your school has a second hand uniform shop (most do). A blazer or coat that’s more than £100 new could cost just £40 second hand.
This is where costs can rack up, depending on how sporty your child is. Nearly all schools will require a PE kit plus a home and away games kit. Seasonal changes from rugby to cricket or hockey to athletics and tracksuits can also add up. Top-of-the-range mouth guards, cricket bats, trainers, scrum caps or snazzy football boots will not be insisted upon by the school (just your child). Although some schools may list a brand such as Nike for all sports items.
EXAMPLE COST: £175 per year
COST SAVING IDEAS: Here you can save a fortune going to the school second hand shop. Also these items need labelling to save buying replacements. Keep the washing machine going - so one P.E kit and one games kit (home and away) should do. Sports scholarships may be available – these give a small % off school fees.
Text books (if not included) will vary each year with the first year at senior school often being the most expensive. Most primary school fees include these items. Revision guides may also be on the text book list. A personal computer, such as an iPad, can be regarded as an essential learning tool and some schools expect pupils to buy their own or buy a school one.
EXAMPLE COST: £100 - £200 per year for text books, jotters, stationery. £500 - £700 for iPads including insurance.
COST SAVING IDEAS: Text books usually only apply to senior schools pupils. Text books are very hard to avoid, although most schools will give you the chance to buy second hand editions or try buying second hand copies on-line. Keep your child supplied with stationery to avoid last minute purchases from the school shop.
Lunch may be included or added to the fees. Some schools have a swipe card system that bills you just for what your child eats. Some schools give the option for pupils to bring a packed lunch. Breakfast, if offered, may incur an additional charge.
EXAMPLE COST: Lunch £75 per month.
COST SAVING IDEAS: Most boarding school fees include breakfast, lunch and supper, even for day pupils. By dropping your child off early and picking them up late, you’ll get your money’s worth!
Private schools may include charges for GCSEs and A Levels (invoiced per exam and according to exam board fees). Schools that sit Scottish exams do not usually charge for Nationals, Highers or Advanced Highers examinations.
EXAMPLE COST: GCSE: Approx. £39 - £53 each. A Levels: £90 - £135 each.
SQA - Nat 4 & 5, Highers and Adv. Highers: £45 each.
COST SAVING IDEAS: Pass first time !! If you request a paper to be re-marked, this could cost around £35-£40 per paper. Re-takes also incur an additional cost.
Almost all school trips are optional. If a whole class or year group are going on a trip, it may be hard to opt out. If you do, your child could also be required to stay at home. Some schools add the trip to the term’s fees to spread out the cost or stagger payments.
EXAMPLE COST: How long is a piece of string? A trip to a museum £3 or China £3,000.
COST SAVING IDEAS: Exciting trips sound appealing but they can add up. So it is up to you as a family to set limits - a history trip may take priority over a ski trip. Schools often encourage children to do their own fund raising towards trips such as sports tours abroad or DofE overseas excursions.
After-school clubs are often included. Usually teacher-led clubs are free, but clubs with external teachers or expensive materials will be extra.
EXAMPLE COST: Debating-Free or £60 per term for something like Judo.
COST SAVING IDEAS: Since these clubs are optional, you can just choose the free ones.
Most schools offer optional one-to-one instrumental tuition during the school day. Instruments can be expensive. External examinations can be taken through school but will incur a charge. A school pipe band or choir could be entered into competitions that may require parents to pay for travel or accommodation.
EXAMPLE COSTS: Lessons: £30 per lesson. Exams (ABRSM) cost between £44 for Grade 1 up to £101 for Grade 8.
COST SAVING IDEAS: Learning an instrument is optional and can be costly, but singing in the school choir will be free. Schools usually have an orchestra which will meet after school or at lunch time and these sessions will be free, along with an end of term concert. Musical instruments may be available to hire from school. Musical scholarships may be available that pay for tuition.
You may be charged for Art and DT supplies in the lower years and they cost slightly more at a higher level. Drama & Theatre Studies may charge for external examinations such as LAMDA. You may also be charged for outings to the Theatre.
EXAMPLE COST: Art & DT supplies: £5 - £75 per term. LAMDA exams: between £44 (for Grade 1) and £95 (for Grade 8).
COST SAVING IDEAS: Cost should be minimal as long as your child uses resources supplied by the school. Art scholarships may be available that give a small % off school fees.
Support for Learning is usually included. Extra costs may be incurred for an assessment by an external educational psychologist. English as a second language may be extra if it’s taught by peripatetic staff.
EXAMPLE COST: English ESOL tuition: £700 per term. Whilst support for learning is usually free, a diagnostic assessment could be over £500 for a specialist teacher, or £700 for an educational psychologist.
COST SAVING IDEAS: Support for learning is usually free.
Most boarding schools mean long hours, even for day pupils. Day schools usually provide wraparound care, breakfast clubs and after school clubs, which incur an additional cost. These may run during school holidays and provide compete daycare for working parents.
EXAMPLE COST: Breakfast Club: £55 per term. Care: from 3.30pm - 6pm is approx. £10 per session. Holiday Care: £30 per day.
COST SAVING IDEAS: If you need full time wraparound care, it may be worth looking at the cost of boarding school day fees. These include all meals (breakfast, lunch, supper) and adult supervision. However, boarding schools do have longer holidays. If you’re a working parent, this is worth remembering.
Many day schools run coaches to bring children to school from the surrounding areas. It may be more expensive than public transport, but they often pick up from more convenient locations. For parents of young children this is often a preferable option.
EXAMPLE COST: From £4.50 per trip, depending on distance.
COST SAVING IDEAS: Check the coach route. It may be worth driving to a different pick- up point to reduce weekly expenditure. When your child is old enough for independent travel, a train or local bus may prove cost-effective.