Highgrove Education

VAT on Private School Fees and the Shift Towards Online Education

VAT on Private School Fees

It’s the policy that’s got everyone in education talking: VAT on private schools. Whether or not you agree with the rationale behind the change, the one thing that everyone agrees on is that introducing the VAT charge is likely to have a significant impact on many families using the independent school sector.

One key reason for this is that private school fees are already at historically high levels. Average private school fees are now at more than £18,000 per year – before you factor in the uniform, the school trips and all the other extras.

The overwhelming majority of pupils at private schools come from families in the top 10% income bracket. In the space of a generation, fees have gone from taking around an eighth of the median income of a family in that top 10% bracket to taking around a quarter of their income.  The pending VAT rise looks to push fees even higher, and for some families, make a change of school an economic necessity.

At Highgrove Education, we’ve already seen families exploring online education as an alternative way of obtaining a high-quality independent education at a more affordable price point. Highgrove is a comfortable choice for families from the private sector; the Principal and core teaching team ran Harrow School Online for several years, and the school is designed to replicate an independent school education, offering a wide range of GCSEs and A levels alongside a rich extra-curricular programme. The team’s academic record competes with the very best independent schools in the UK, with A level results last summer at 78% A* or A grade – higher than those of Harrow School.

As well as easing the financial strain on parents, online schooling has some additional benefits. A standout unexpected advantage is flexibility. When your school is your laptop, the world is your oyster, and online schooling allows families to travel more extensively, including in term time, and eliminates the daily commutes, saving time and money.

For students who find school stressful due to anxiety or bullying, online education provides a safe and comfortable learning environment, free from the pressures of a traditional classroom. The independent learning aspect of online schooling also stands students in good stead for university study, and self-paced learning can be particularly beneficial for pupils with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND).

Pupils at independent schools currently constitute about 6% of all pupils, although the distribution is skewed towards pupils at sixth form, where it is around 12%. The fear is that this hike could lead to a significant shift of students to state schools, potentially straining public education resources.

However, as education evolves, online schooling is becoming an attractive alternative for parents seeking quality alongside affordability. While the VAT on private school fees poses challenges, it also drives innovation, encouraging families to explore new educational models. VAT is already included in the fees of online schools, leaving them immune from a sudden price hike. For some independent school parents, enrolling their child in an online school at £11,000 per year with high academic standards at a lower price point offers a flexible and cost-effective solution to ever-spiraling private school fees.