Eton College, the UK's most prestigious school, is to put up fees by pound;1,500 a year after falling returns on investments made building improvements more of a burden. Pupils include the sons of Iain Duncan Smith, Sir David Frost and Bryan Ferry.
In a letter to parents, provost Eric Anderson announces that fees will rise to pound;6,366 per "half" - Eton slang for term - from September.
But the rise will not make Eton Britain's most expensive school. In a league table of this year's fees compiled by The TES (see right), its charge of pound;5,868 does not even make the top 10.
Exclusive girls' school Roedean provides the most expensive mainstream education in the UK, according to figures from the Independent Schools Council.
The school, whose old girls include Tory peer Baroness Chalker, actress Sarah Miles of Ryan's Daughter fame, and journalist Katherine Whitehorn, charges up to pound;6,425 a term. Malvern Girls' College currently comes second at pound;6,265 a term, followed by Prince Charles's alma mater Gordonstoun which charges pound;6,250.
Schools tend to put up fees by more than the national rise in teachers'
salaries every year. Next year they are expected to rise by 5-7 per cent. But the figures - which show that UK parents can pay more than pound;19,000 a year for a child's schooling before any extras - are topped by the fees charged by international schools in the UK, which can reach pound;21,000 a year.
One example, the American Community School in Cobham, Surrey, costs pound;10,380 a semester for boarders - pound;20,760 a year. The school, which educated Erin Brockovich star Aaron Eckhart, boasts accommodation described as equivalent to a four-star hotel and a state-of-the-art swimming pool with adjustable depth.
International schools are usually distinguished by the fact that they do not teach the English national curriculum, using alternatives such as the American system or the International Baccalaureate.
However, some operate on a different basis. Sherborne International College, charging pound;7,000 a term, describes itself as a "study centre" which prepares non-English-speaking pupils for mainstream UK schools.
"We have only six students to every teacher and the course is very intensive," said principal Christopher Greenfield. Pupils usually stay a year and then move to a more traditional school.
Specialist schools are also expensive, with Frewen College, a school for dyslexic boys, topping the list at pound;6,540 a term. Chetham's School of Music, which produced this year's Young Musician of the Year, charges pound;6,436 a term.
Dick Davison, of the ISC, said: "The high fees in specialist schools reflect higher costs. There may be a large number of specialist staff or a very high adult-to-pupil ratio.
"Often fees will be paid by local authorities, and in the case of music schools a high proportion of pupils will be part of the Government's music and dance scheme."
Meanwhile, although the most costly boarding schools are spread around the country, the most expensive day schools are clustered in London.
King's College in Wimbledon is the dearest day-only institution, with fees of up to pound;3,310 a term. Of the top 10 day schools, only one - Castle Court, a prep school in Dorset - is outside London.
Mr Davison said high prices in the capital reflect greater outlays. "The per capita costs are much higher," he said. "Teachers get paid London allowance, which is probably the single biggest difference."
Day pupils are charged more at boarding schools - up to pound;4,050 at Roedean, for example - but Mr Davison said this reflected the longer days and wider range of extra-curricular activities on offer.
Again, international schools are more expensive, with Kensington-based Southbank International School charging pound;4,800 at term. Head Nigel Hughes said the school taught 17 languages.
The tables were compiled from the fees listed in the ISC's 2002 guide to independent schools. In each case the maximum fee was used. A few members did not reveal their fees and are not included.
Many schools charge a range of fees. A prep school may charge less for pupils in the nursery, who may be part time, while a senior school may have higher fees in the sixth form.
"If there is a range, parents need to enquire precisely what it means," said Mr Davison.
The survey only covers schools which are members of the ISC. Members make up just over half the country's private schools but educate 85 per cent of the sector's pupils.
CURRENT COSTS PER TERM
School Maximum termly fee (pound;)
King's College, Wimbledon, London 3,310
King's College Junior, Wimbledon, London 3,310
Highgate, London 3,250
University College, Hampstead, London 3,250
University College, junior branch, Hampstead, London 3,000
Highgate Junior, London 2,960
Garden House, Sloane Square, London 2,950
Latymer Upper, Hammersmith, London 2,950
Castle Court, Winbourne, Dorset 2,945
St Paul's Girls', Hammersmith, London 2,941
Frewen College (dyslexia), Rye, East Sussex 6,540
Chetham's School of Music, Manchester 6,436
Hurtwood House (sixth form only), Dorking, Surrey 6,100
Purcell School of Music, Watford, Hertfordshire 5,980
Mander Portman Woodward (A-level resits), South Kensington, London 4,252
Roedean , Brighton, East Sussex 6,425
Malvern Girls' College, Malvern, Worcestershire 6,265
Gordonstoun, Elgin, Moray 6,250
Wycliffe College, Stonehorse, Gloucestershire 6,200
Winchester College, Winchester, Hampshire 6,120
Benenden, Cranbrook, Kent 6,100
King's School Canterbury, Kent 5,995
Harrow, Harrow-on-the-Hill, Middlesex 5,960
Tonbridge, Tonbridge, Kent 5,958
Wellington College, Crowthorne, Berkshire 5,945
International schoolsstudy centresSherborne International, Dorset
(boarding) 7,000 American Community School, Cobham (boarding) *10,380
Marymount International School, Surrey (boarding) *6,122
Southbank International School,Kensington, (day) 4,800
Southbank International School, Hampstead, (day) 4,300
American Community School, Uxbridge (day) *6,350
Woodside Park International School, Barnet (day) 3,300
*fees for two semesters, not a single term