While some private schools in the United Kingdom have experienced a boom in enrollment from foreign countries, independent institutions that rely on local students have begun to suffer. The Economist reported Saturday that British private schools, which are often known as "public schools," now serve only 6.9 percent of the students nationwide, down from 7.2 percent in 2008. Schools not located near airports, cities or in the southeast region around London have been hit particularly hard.
Fee increases could be the reason. BBC News reported the average cost of putting a student through 14 years of private education costs about 286,000 pounds, or $430,400, according to research by wealth management firm Killik and Co. If a child boards there, parents could pay up to 468,000 pounds, or $704,300.
“These days, parents want far more for their children than their own bed and the voice of a distant master in a huge schoolroom. They want the latest in modern accommodation and state-of-the-art sports equipment, and -- the most costly requirement of all -- tiny pupil-teacher ratios,” David Turner, a private school historian, told the Telegraph. “Private schools are generally pretty efficient, but this all costs money.”
Some prep schools in the elementary and middle grades, and rural institutions, have been forced to close in recent years. Still, the overall number of private school students was up: The Guardian reported in April there were 517,000 youngsters enrolled -- the largest student population in decades.
Domestic student numbers were the issue. China, Russia and Germany sent thousands of children to study in the United Kingdom, but the fee hikes plus the recession there made some British parents reconsider. That said, this trend could reverse as families recover and remember the value of private school, Killik financial planner Sarah Lord told BBC.
“The cost of private education is eye-watering for many families,” Lord said. “However, over a third of parents responded that investment in education is one of the best investments they can make.”