Independent schools will bounce back from recession...

... but fee increases must be curtailed, according to a new report

Prior Park, private school, school fees

A report into the independent sector predicts that private schools will bounce back strongly from the current recession, and that the political outlook may result in an increase in pupil numbers. The report, by MTM Consulting, states that there could be a significant increase in independent school pupil numbers from 2012 onwards, as a result of parental reaction to unrest and disruption in the state sector.

The Conservatives have so far failed to pledge support to the private sector. As a result, cuts in public spending could continue to damage the quality, effectiveness and availability of state schooling in the years to come, compounding parental dissatisfaction.

Sharp warning

The report, however, gives a sharp warning to the independent sector that unless it addresses the subject of affordability to the middle classes, numbers could decline from 2015 onwards.

Business analyst Gavin Humphries, who compiled the findings, comments: "The potential market for independent schools is very large. We put the figure... at more than two million pupils. But to achieve this, schools must restrain the continuing growth in fees by tackling their finances."

The growing middle class in Britain has been a huge target market for independent schools in recent times, but their willingness to consider private education in future could be compromised by the recession, income stagnation and fee increases in excess of average rises in salary.

Schools have pointed to an increase in teaching costs as the main factor behind large fee increases from the late 1990s onwards. Indeed, the report found that, due to the increase in pupil numbers since 1981, teaching costs in the sector have risen by 51 per cent.

The last year, however, has seen far more conservative fee increases, with some schools going as low as 2.2 per cent. Capital projects have been put on hold, schools have been practising careful financial planning and facilities are being maximised in order to raise funds. Hence it would seem that many in the private sector have pre-empted the findings of this report and are planning assiduously for future efficiency.



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