- helping parents choose the best private preparatory or pre-preparatory school for their child

Fantastic fantastic fantastic! He absolutely loves it there and he is so happy. We have received a wonderful report and he loves the new headmaster. He has made some gorgeous friends and so far he has seen absolutely no bullying!! He has thrown himself into school life and to be honest he has done more at X in two months then he ever did during the three years at Y! Thank you so much and if you ever have any parents interested I would be only too willing to talk to them.

Mrs S W

Fees, Discounts and Bursaries

Reducing Your School Fees

A private education in the UK can be horrendously expensive. From 5 through to 18 can easily exceed £150,000 in day school fees per child. In boarding schools it will exceed £250,000. It is therefore no surprise that many parents want private education for their children, but desperately want to reduce the overall cost. In this section we list a number of ways you can achieve a reduction in the amount you pay. Lack of space only permits us to list the ways. Those clients who retain us for school advice may discuss these methods in greater detail.


The simplest definition of a scholarship is a discount on school fees for talented children. They are found more commonly in senior schools than preps because it is sometimes not easy to identify particular talents at a very early age. Senior schools will typically offer scholarships for academic ability, music, sport, art and drama. Some schools have as many as 30% + pupils on scholarships. The discount can be nominal (e.g 5%) or up to 25% or more. In prep schools there are far fewer scholarships – you probably will not get them for sport, art or drama. However, what is far more important is whether your target prep has a big track record in achieving scholarships for entry to the next level of admission to senior schools. Note that most senior schools expect applicants to sit the scholarship examinations which are an extension of the Common Entrance exams set by the ISEB. However sports or music scholarships will entail an “audition” at the senior school targeted.


Conversely a bursary is a means-tested discount for parents in diminished financial circumstances. There are far fewer awards for bursaries – because schools simply want talented children – not just parents who cannot afford private school fees. Thus, it is becoming increasingly common for schools to test applicants for scholarships first and if successful allow them to apply for a bursary in addition. Please be aware that applying for a bursary can be a long, complex process and some schools contract this out to financial vetting firms. You will need to pay to register your child with the school first and the amount of financial detail required often puts parents off from applying. Please note that we at Education Advisers Ltd do not advise on bursaries.

Educational Trusts

Outside of schools there are a significant number of charities, known as educational trusts, which may assist poorer or disadvantaged parents with school fees. They are sometimes linked to certain occupations or children with disabilities. Our fee paying school advice clients can apply to us for a list of these charities.

Sibling discounts

Most (but not all!) schools like to attract whole families and offer discounts for the second, third and more children. It is likely to be 5 or 10% per child as long as they remain at the school together. So think carefully before you split your family up between different schools.

Occupational awards

Most schools give discounts to members of the armed services, diplomats, clergy, teachers etc. Indeed, the lists can go on to many other categories such as merchant seamen or even accountants, almost as a marketing exercise. You need to search around.

Advance fees

Schools will usually offer discounts for paying several years fees in advance. Sometimes called composition fee schemes, they are based on charitable schools being exempt from tax on interest and the current low interest environment makes these less attractive.

Plain negotiation

If you are targeting a top London prep with a fantastic track record of senior school leaver destinations and a huge waiting list, you are unlikely to get anywhere trying to barter over fees! However, elsewhere it is well worth a try. Remember schools like talented children and families. Just because their literature quotes one scale of discounts this does not mean they won’t go further. Sometimes they are trying to attract certain types of parents, maybe of influence or who can bring something to the school. Maybe you can point out you have better offers of scholarships elsewhere. Take our tip and leave any negotiations till the end when the school has decided it wants your children. Always be pleasant. Schools generally hate pushy parents, who they fear might be argumentative and demanding after their children have joined.

Financial planning

You may well have seen numerous adverts from financial planners offering to sort out your school fees planning. With the kind of liabilities involved of £150,000 to £250,000 +, you should not start private education unless you are organised to carry on funding it. However, in our view the majority of financial planners have no clever ideas whatsoever about reducing overall education costs. If your financial planner’s best shot is to invest in an Individual Savings Account (ISA), they are probably a waste of time, because the current yields on ISAs are less than the inflationary increases in school fees, meaning you will not even be standing still. Unfortunately, the UK Inland Revenue withdrew tax relief on school fees many years ago. However, there are still a few ways of securing tax concessions for higher rate tax payers by funding school fees out of pensions or company profits. You need a highly skilled school planner to advise on doing that. Different countries have different tax regimes and the previous comments only apply to British citizens / residents. We intend to bring out a separate eGuide on this subject for clients only.

This list is not exhaustive and only gives minimal detail. Our fee paying bespoke school advice clients may request further more detailed information. Phone +44 (0) 1732 368767 or +44 (0)845 226 28 20