The headmaster of my old school has been on the radio and in the papers saying that ordinary middle class families such as my own are being priced out of the market for independent schooling, and institutions such as his own are little more than “finishing schools for the children of oligarchs”.
He’s got a nerve. The place costs about £20,000 a year. That puts it at the pricier end of the spectrum and means that, to educate two children you would have to earn £56,000 before tax, on a higher tax band. Unaffordable, indeed, to most families. The increase in the cost of independent schooling has been running well ahead of inflation, about 5, 6 or 7 per cent a year for some years now.
This means that in real terms, from when your child enters the sausage machine at age four to when he or she leaves after A levels, or whatever they are called these days, the cost of that education will pretty much double, in real terms. What is affordable at the start is unaffordable at the end.
Our own children, thank God, both decided that once they had sat their O-levels, sorry GCSEs, they no longer wanted to attend institutions that seemed only interested in giving an education to the spoilt, rich and privileged. Both went to state sixth form colleges – one went from this humble institution to Cambridge, so there.
Andrew Halls, who is apparently the head of my alma mater, said schools like his are so reliant on rich pupils from overseas that they are in danger of a banking-style crash, should such lucrative business one day disappear.
To which I can only say, my sympathy is limited. You have priced yourself out of the market. You no longer serve ordinary families such as mine.
Two thoughts. One, if the middle classes are not able to afford private education, then the state system can only benefit, as pushy parents insist on the highest standards for their offspring.
And if my alma mater is indeed purely for rich oligarchs’ children, perhaps it might stop pestering me for money to subsidise their education. As it has been asked to several times. Yet still the begging letters for a contribution to the new Quad, or sports fields, or whatever, come through the door.
Oh, and by the way. I got a partial scholarship, which is how my family managed to afford it. This paid for a third of my school fees. The school’s website today says that junior school scholarships “of up to £1,500 a year are available”. This is, if the rudimentary maths I was taught at the place does not fail me, rather less than a third, which suggests that the value of such contributions may have fallen a little behind in the intervening years.
Not that this would bother the average oligarch.