We are all affected by the current situation, either because Coronavirus has directly impacted us or someone close to us. Unfortunately, there will be few people whose financial resources remain unscathed, and many will be faced with economic uncertainty in the coming months and years.
Independent schools are in the same position. Many private schools are extremely concerned about the impact this has on parents who are forced to withdraw their children from schools. Parents, who spend tens of thousands of pounds a year on private school fees, may get some of their money back after the current schools’ closure.
Some schools, including Eton, are offering discounted fees during Coronavirus. In addition, a number of private schools have offered fee freezes for next the academic year (2020-2021) to compensate parents for the Covid-19 school closures. However, some schools feel that discounting schools fees is is not sustainable, so parents will have to continue paying despite the fact that their children are at home. Most schools offer distance learning and support programmes for their students and are doing the best job possible. Queens Gate School in Kensington, and EIFA International School (Ecole International Franco-Anglaise) in Marylebone are two independent schools providing comprehensive online learning programmes.
Parents are beginning to form a picture of what schools are offering in terms of discounts or deferred payments, but uncertainty still prevails. In general, most schools are behaving fairly. For example, the Girls Day School Trust, which manages Oxford High School, Kensington Prep and South Hampstead High School for Girls, amongst over 20 other schools in England, has agreed a 10% fee reduction with all parents. Given the high quality of the GDST’s online tuition, parents have been largely happy with this concession. For most schools, 80-90% of their costs go on staff salaries and only a small percentage on heating and maintaining school buildings. For this reason, as staff are still employed to give online lessons, there is a narrow margin that could be refunded to parents.
Please see the answers to your possible school fees scenarios you may be facing:
Can I get a refund of private school fees during coronavirus?
Whether or not you will get your money back depends on the individual institution.
It is highly unlikely that schools will reimburse the cost of tuition, as most schools are teaching online.
Schools are trying to strike a balance between keeping parents happy and keeping schools afloat. They are likely to provide discounts in the form of a credit that you can deduct from next year’s costs. Some won’t offer any fee discounts, whereas others may offer refunds for services they no longer provide.
My child’s school is charging full fees for the summer term and I am thinking of withholding payment.
If it is not a crippling commitment for your family, we strongly recommend that you do not withhold payment since, according to the contract with your school, you may be legally bound to comply. Failure to pay could alter the positive relationship between you and your child’s school, which will not benefit your child’s education. Also, if many other families do the same, the school may close its doors forever. If you really can’t pay the fees, please contact the school bursar.
I don’t think the online education my son’s school offers is worth the fees I pay.
The current situation was totally unforeseen by schools, as well as by parents. We recommend that you avoid reacting hastily and be patient with the situation. There are some things that parents will have to be in charge of at home, for example, providing lunches, pastoral care and emotional support. If you feel that the school is not meeting its academic commitments, please contact your child’s classroom teacher or year head (who would generally be responsible for their academic progress) to voice your concerns. If you concerns are not addressed, escalate them to the senior leadership team.
The situation has seriously affected my income. I cannot afford the schools fees for the summer term. What should I do?
Please contact the school bursar to find out if they can offer staged payment terms or a reduction in fees. If your financial situation has been so severely damaged that you don’t think you will be able to meet the long-term fees, speak to the school about a means-tested bursary or scholarship.
How to request a refund
We encourage you to discuss possible discounts with your child’s school. If you are struggling to pay, do not be afraid to ask about scholarships. Many schools have switched from scholarships to bursaries to provide places for students who otherwise would not afford the cost.
Do approach the school with any concerns you may have. It’s important to continue to build a strong working relationship with your child’s school. The school may also welcome the opportunity to share the difficulties they face. Right now, independent schools are focusing on the well-being of their school communities. And they are doing their best to ensure the continuity of teaching and learning for your children.
If you have any concerns about your child’s education, please contact us for support and advice.