Prep schools are trying to attract families by opening for 11 months a year, allowing children to go on holiday in term-time or teaching radically different curriculums
10th June 2019
It is in response to the threat of closure by rapidly improving state primaries and senior schools recruiting younger pupils. They also face mounting costs including increases in teacher pension contributions, and are under pressure to keep fees affordable.
Shrewsbury Prepatoria, a small school in Shropshire, is opening for 48 weeks a year, compared with 39 weeks for most state schools and about 36 weeks for the average private school.
It also allows parents to take up to nine weeks of term-time holidays without penalty, to provide flexibility to “busy working families”.
The school’s website says: “Our fees cover the whole cost of education for your child. You will have no need to book or pay for expensive holiday clubs. We estimate that the average family, normally accessing the state system, can save up to £3,000 a year by taking holidays in term time and avoiding the need to pay for childcare and holiday clubs during the 13-week shut down.”
Prep schools charge average fees of £8,406 for boarding and £4,426 for day pupils, according to this year’s Independent Schools Council census.
Tax private schools and all Scotland suffers, says charities boss
Forcing Scotland’s private schools to pay business rates risks driving them out of commission, with communities paying the price in lost access to valuable shared facilities and state pupils missing out on classes, the charity regulator has warned.
OSCR says the Scottish government’s contentious plan to strip fee-charging schools of business rates relief threatens institutions that have taken steps to provide more public benefits for the areas around them.
In a submission to Holyrood’s local government committee, it warns: “As can be seen in the publicly available annual reports and accounts of the independent schools, and in recent wind-ups and mergers in the sector, a number of independent schools are in marginal financial positions.
“Changes to charitable tax relief to this group of charities has the potential to impact on financial viability, which in turn may affect the funds available for bursary or other assistance payments and have implications for the charities’ beneficiaries and their local communities.”
OSCR warns that government plans to implement the recommendations of the Barclay review into business rates, allowing councils to tax independent schools in future, could lead to some schools deregistering as charities.
John Edward, director of the Scottish Council of Independent Schools, supported the regulator’s stance.
He said: “While I have every faith in the resilience of the sector, and in our schools’ offer to young people, OSCR is right to express concern.
“The independent regulator, at the express wish of Holyrood, worked for over seven years to test the public benefit each school was providing. They measured both widened access via means-tested fee assistance, and the wider use of facilities, resources and staff.”