The cost of private education has become so high that it is no longer an option for the majority of people in the UK, with teachers, doctors and lawyers among those no longer able to afford the fees, according to the headmaster at a top London school.
Andrew Halls of King's College School, Wimbledon, told The Sunday Times that fees had increased at twice the rate of inflation in recent years, resulting in many private schools becoming reliant on overseas students and becoming little more than “finishing schools for the children of oligarchs.”
The wealth of some of these foreign families, he explained, was such that they pushed up the fees beyond a level attainable by most in the UK.
“We have allowed the apparently endless queue of wealthy families from across the world knocking at our doors to blind us to a simple truth: we charge too much,” he said.
“Somewhere along the way, first the nurses stopped sending children to us, then the policemen, then armed forces officers, then even the local accountants and lawyers.
“The most prestigious schools in the world teach the children of the very wealthiest families in the world. A typical boarding school now requires a parent to have a spare £30,000 in taxed income to pay for just one child — every year.”
He believes the current rate of increasing cost is unsustainable, and that the education system could end up collapsing, just like in a banking-style crash.
“We are in danger of coming across as greedy, because we can charge what appears to be limitless fees but in truth there is a fees timebomb ticking away. It feels like the build-up to the banking crisis. For the first time in my career, I feel that the shifts over the next 10 years could prove seismic.”
STATE SCHOOLS IMPROVING
Halls added that while private school costs continue to rise, the performance of non fee-paying schools is improving, with more Oxbridge graduates becoming teachers at state schools, grammar schools and academies.
“In the past few years about 50 private schools have already closed, merged, or turned into state schools. That number will only rise,” he warned.
“If independent schools don’t read the writing on the wall, they will surely perish, one by one. Of course, I realise that my own school must look to itself as well.”