Only top 1% of earners can afford private schools

I’m of the generation where friends of mine went to private school because both their parents had reasonably well-paid jobs and maybe sacrificed a new car or a couple of foreign holidays to pay the fees.

However, a survey by has found that an eye watering annual salary of 150K is now needed to send two children to private school, which means it is as out of reach for most middle-class families as having a yacht moored in Bermuda.

According to the latest HMRC statistics, only the top 1% per cent of British earners have a salary of 162K. If you’re relying on two incomes, each parent would need to be in the top 5% of earners, with a salary of 70K plus.

I’ve certainly noticed reductions in the number of UK families approaching us to help their child pass the entrance exams for independent schools. That doesn’t mean our business is suffering. On the contrary, we’re overwhelmed with enquiries, it’s just that the fall in the domestic market has opened it up to parents from overseas, particularly China and the Middle East.

A traditional British education is still the holy grail for well-off families abroad and with fewer applications from home, it’s not unheard of for top English schools to have classrooms filled with Chinese children wearing boater hats.

We are in a period of economic uncertainty.  If salaries stagnate and school fees continue to rise – and according to the Independent Schools Council’s annual census they have risen 20% in the past five years and 70% in the past 14 – this situation will only get worse. The weaker pound and instability with Brexit may also see more European families cashing in. Whereas I believe foreign students make an invaluable contribution to British schooling and expose our children to cultural differences, it would be farcical if our excellent, world-renowned, independent schooling system was benefiting other countries’ children instead of our own.

According to the Student Fees Investment Advisers, the cost of sending two children to private school from the ages of five to 18 is at least £500K and this figure can rise when you include extra-curricular activities. It is a long-term investment that many families feel unable to commit to and so, rather than putting their young child in an independent school and risk having to pull them out at a later date, when they’re in the thick of exams, they’ll search for a good state school and use the money saved to boost their education with private tuition.

I imagine things will come to a head and schools might start selecting students on more than the depth of their parents’ pockets. Until then, if you want to send your kids to private school, you need to ask the boss for a pay rise. And make it a big one.


About William Clarence Education
William Clarence Education is the leading education advisory and consultancy service in the UK. With an unrivalled reach into the UK Schooling and University Network, William Clarence helps and advises families from around the world to reach their maximum potential and gain access to the very best of UK education. With close links to former Heads of Schools and senior figures within the education industry, William Clarence is proud to offer expert advice that puts your child at the centre of the process. Their business works with families at every stage of their academic journey including School PlacementUniversity placementOxbridge ApplicationsUS College Admissions and Homeschooling.

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