Fees have increased by an average 5.6% this year, compared with a 4.1% increase in 2020 and only 1.1% in 2021, according to a 2023 census of the Independent School Council’s (ISC) 1,395 member schools. This is the highest fee increase since 2009, when fees rose by 5.9% on the year before.
It means that parents are paying an average £16,656 a year for a day school, which is 5.8% more than last year. The average annual boarding fee is £39,000, 5.2% higher than in 2022 and 41% higher than the average of £27,600 in 2013.
Many UK independent schools froze their fees during the pandemic, but with rising inflation and energy costs, schools have had little choice but to pass those increases on to parents. The ISC report highlights that this increase is in line with government levels of wage inflation, “meaning fees have grown only slightly in real terms.”
Day school fees vary considerably by region, with average annual fees of just over £12,000 in the North West, rising to £20,000 per year for day schools in London.
While the majority of day schools charge between £9,000 and £15,500 per year, there are 65 'affordable' schools with annual fees of under £6,000.
When money really does matter, a bursary can open the door to a fee-paying, private education by providing means-tested fee assistance of up to 100% of fees – depending on individual family circumstance. And the good news is that these types of awards are on the increase.
The ISC census reveals that a record £1.2 billion is being spent on bursaries, which is an increase of 5.9% on last year.
Means-tested ‘bursaries’ have been increasing in the past decade by over £175 million to over £460 million. This year, 183,434 students are receiving help with their fees, which represents a third of all ISC students.
There is a continuing trend in schools supporting more disadvantaged families in accessing a private education in the UK. Around half of bursaries and scholarships are means-tested, and the average means-tested bursary is worth £11,807. 9,620 students pay no fees at all, an increase of 23% from last year. And there are over 2,000 Ukrainian students in independent schools across the UK, many of whom are funded by schools themselves.
Read more: Bursaries: Top UK Schools with Free or Subsidised Places