School wealth divide as big as ever

How would you like income per pupil of pound;24,000 a year? Cherry Canovan investigates the astonishing riches of Britain's top private schools

Secondary schools may be rejoicing that the Government is to boost their annual income, but the cash they get is still small change to Britain's wealthy public schools.

The most famous, Eton, has an annual income of over pound;30 million, nearly 10 times what a similar-sized state school might expect.

Other historic schools, including Harrow and Dulwich College, also have huge incomes of more than pound;16.5m apiece.

Research by The TES confirms the yawning financial divide that still exists between state and private schools.

At Ripley St Thomas, a state school in Lancaster, head Julian Lailey has an annual budget of pound;3.8m. The school has 1,480 pupils - about 200 more than Eton.

Including income streams such as funding for its specialist language status, it receives just under pound;2,600 per pupil each year. This is dwarfed by Eton's income, which works out at nearly pound;24,000 per pupil, though this includes the cost of boarding. Fees are around pound;16,500. A state school Eton's size could receive as little as pound;3.25m a year from its local education authority.

Secondary Heads Association's funding consultant Peter Downes said: "There is a funding range in the secondary sector of about pound;2,500 to pound;3,800 per pupil." Schools also receive a small amount directly from the government.

However Mr Downes pointed out that, while state schools get extra cash for buildings, private schools must fund such expenses from income. An extra government grant of pound;270,000 recently allowed Ripley St Thomas to build a classroom block.

Harrow received pound;12.6m in fees in the year to August 31, 2000. Trading brought in over pound;2m, and the school also received donations and legacies of pound;1.4m. Total income was just under pound;17m.

This allowed the school to spend more than pound;4.6m on teaching costs, pound;2.7m on welfare and nearly pound;4m on premises. A state school of the same size might see an income one ninth of Harrow's pound;1.96m. However it would not have to meet the costs of boarding.

Mr Downes also pointed out that there is a divide between the most famous private schools and the rest: a typical private day school might have an income two-and-a-half times that of its state counterpart .

Income per pupil also varies enormously, even among top schools. At Dulwich, fees for the year ended July 31, 2001 were around pound;12.4 m, while pound;8.25m was spent on teaching. Although its fee income is very similar to Harrow's, it has nearly twice as many pupils and so around pound;10,000 less per pupil per year.

The top girls' schools tend to have lower incomes with Benenden, Roedean and Malvern Girls' all bringing in between pound;6m and pound;8m a year, although Cheltenham Ladies' College got nearly pound;12m.

In terms of annual income per pupil, girls also fall behind boys. Despite being the country's most expensive school, Roedean has under pound;17,000 per pupil, while Eton, Harrow and King's Canterbury all have over pound;20,000.

Girls' schools also tend to be poor relations in terms of overall worth. Eton easily tops this table with an astonishing four times the net assets of any other school in the country. But schools such as Uppingham, Rugby and King's Canterbury still have substantial assets and are worth nearly pound;40m, while Harrow clocks up more than pound;30m.

By contrast Roedean and Malvern Girls' College are worth less than pound;5m apiece. Benenden can only manage pound;8.6m, although Cheltenham Ladies' College is again in a different league with nearly pound;22m in net assets.

Dick Davison of the Independent Schools Council said: "There are a whole range of complex and historical reasons for this. It is to do with the age of the schools, the kinds of buildings they are in and the state of their endowments."

Log in or register for FREE to continue reading.

It only takes a moment and you'll get access to more news, plus courses, jobs and teaching resources tailored to you