Parents tell us that choosing an independent school for their child can be an overwhelming and mentally draining task, and for many, a deep dive into unknown territories. There can be no doubt that thoughts of moving into the independent sector will be peppered with questions and ‘what ifs’ regarding finances. But don’t be put off – there are many different ways that schools can help.
Remember, costs vary
Affordability will, almost certainly, be high on the list for those thinking of taking the plunge. Education is a long term commitment and parents tell us that finances are the factor that often keeps them wavering on the fence. A glance at the website of the school closest to home, and a click on the fee page, can draw a family discussion to an abrupt close. However, it is important to remember that, as with most commodities, cost varies hugely from model to model; education is no exception and fees differ immensely from school to school. If the fees of one school have an eye-watering effect, taking a broader look at the independent schools within your geographical area may give you a pleasant surprise. From there, take a closer look at those that fall into the bracket that could work for your family.
Break it down
We don’t often pay for our car outright! If the ballpark figure of a yearly fee is daunting, ask the schools you are considering for a fee breakdown per month. This can only help to bring the bigger picture down to a more manageable perspective. Parents looking for Reception class places for their little ones at St Wystan’s School have often been surprised that, in monthly terms, our fees are comparative to those of a private nursery – fees that are already plugged into the spreadsheet and are a regular outgoing. In addition, schools may offer a monthly payment plan – it is always worth asking.
Bursaries and scholarships
Independent schools will offer a couple of routes to assist families with affordability – namely means-tested bursaries and scholarships. A means-tested bursary, dependent upon your own financial circumstances, could lead to a fee discount which may open a door for your child which was fast closing – it’s definitely worth investigating. Scholarship vary between schools in terms of subjects offered, eligibility and the percentage of discount for successful candidates. At St Wystan’s, we offer scholarships for entry into Year 3 for pupils who shine in Sports and Music, and for Academic All-rounders – each one again making a difference to the pocket.
There is nothing wrong, at this point, in picking up the phone and having a straightforward discussion with the right person about the options open to you and the application process. It’s the call that may make the difference.
Arrange a visit
Amidst all the thinking, don’t forget to arrange a visit to the schools you are considering. A personal tour will provide the perfect opportunity to take a look at the facilities and to ask about the ethos, curricular and extra-curricular opportunities and, importantly, the pastoral care within the school. Families who choose St Wystan’s tell us they knew we were right for them as soon as they walked through the door, felt our warmth and witnessed our friendly and caring environment. A visit is vital as it is difficult to convey this feeling through a website. A tour comes without a financial commitment, so we suggest you take advantage and use this an opportunity to get a feel for the schools and establish which one could be the right fit for your family and your pocket.
In conclusion, do the research, make the enquires and ask the questions. A click on the first website is too soon to give up – it may be the start but is certainly not the end of a quest for affordability.
Ms Kara Lebihan – Headteacher, St Wystan’s School
St Wystan’s is a small independent school with a warm family feel, situated in the heart of Repton village. Our friendly staff will be delighted to assist you with your enquiries and to point you in the direction that works for your family.