Coronavirus: Private schools 'wrestling' with fee cuts

Independent schools ‘loath’ to add to financial strain on parents but are anxious about 'painful' losses

Catherine Lough

private school

Private schools are "wrestling with what school fees to charge for the summer term" in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak, with some fearful for their financial future.

Julie Robinson, chief executive of the Independent Schools Council, said fees for the summer term could be disrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic.

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"Independent schools across the world have been wrestling with the issue of what school fees to charge for the summer term," she said.

"These fees were set over a year ago but sudden changes to operations caused by the pandemic have thrown normality to the wind and we are all in the process of adapting to a new world in the short and medium term."

Tes has confirmed that Eton College and Marlborough College will be cutting summer term fees by a third.

King's College School Wimbledon has said it will reduce fees for everyone from 7-18 by 15 per cent for the summer term, and will refund lunches and coach travel. The school will also freeze fees for the autumn term in September.

On Monday, Tes reported that prep schools are likely to make fee reductions during the coronavirus outbreak. 

And the Girls' Day School Trust is reported to be freezing fees for the autumn term across its 25 independent girls' schools. 

Ms Robinson said independent schools did not wish to pass on financial burdens to parents but were also "anxious about the future when so much remains uncertain".

"The schools we have spoken to expect to take losses, painful ones," she said.

"Most schools do not have large reserves to fall back on. Some schools had sent fee invoices before the government restricted citizens’ movements," Ms Robinson added.

"Some schools have not yet invoiced parents and are loath to add to the financial strain on fee-paying families, the majority of whom are dual-income couples with their own financial pressures to consider."

Ms Robinson said that many schools were arranging virtual governors’ meetings "to explore ways in which they can mitigate the financial risks of this crisis".

Andrew Halls, the headteacher of King's College School Wimbledon, told Tes he expected his school would "weather" the storm but was postponing any non-essential maintenance work at the current time.

"King’s has no endowment – all that it has is what it gets from school fees and any donations we are able to attain," he said.

"We think that our careful management of resources to date will enable us to weather this storm, but we are postponing non-urgent maintenance and refurbishment work, and looking into the possibility of furloughing employees whose work we may not need while the physical campus is mainly empty."


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author bio

Catherine Lough

Catherine Lough is a reporter at Tes.

Find me on Twitter @CathImogenLough

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