Smaller classes, better facilities, individual attention, a broad spectrum of extracurricular activities and the potential for higher grades - just a few reasons why many parents strive to give their children a private education. But with costs at an all-time high, what steps could you be taking to help fund the fees?

According to Lloyds Private Banking, school fees have risen by more than a fifth since 2012, with the average fee for a day school costing £15,654 per year, and over £37,000 for a boarder. School fees are paid from post-tax income, so even parents on very high salaries are likely to find it a stretch.

If you’re planning to send your children to a private school and don’t already have the funds to hand, you may need to start saving and investing almost as soon as they’re born. Without a financial plan, most parents will struggle to meet the ever-spiralling costs.

And it’s not just the school fees. Uniforms, school trips, music lessons, transport, meals, books, sports equipment, laptops, mobiles, art and DT supplies, exam fees, stationery, school photos – it all adds up. In fact, it’s recommended you need an extra 10 per cent on top of the annual fees to cover the extras.

Almost one-third of pupils receive some kind of reduction in their school fees from a scholarship or bursary

1. Find out about the school’s scholarships and bursaries

Start by exploring the bursaries and scholarships offered by the schools you’re considering. According to the Independent Schools Council, almost one-third of pupils receive some kind of reduction on their school fees.

Scholarships are a form of financial aid given to pupils who are particularly strong either academically, or in music, art or sport. A bursary is a grant, awarded to pupils who might otherwise struggle to pay the school fees.

It is possible to receive both, and most schools will top up a scholarship with a bursary for talented pupils. But some bursaries go to pupils with more modest abilities, so it’s definitely worth applying. Once you’ve exhausted these avenues, you will need to pay the remainder of the fee.

2. Plan when you want your children to attend a private school

Do you want your children to have a private education from their earliest years? Or is it more important to focus on the latter part of their school education?

Sending your children to a state primary school, before switching to a private school for their secondary education, will give you more time to build up your investments and savings.

3. Consider help from grandparents

Many grandparents are keen to help pay for private school fees. Each grandparent has an annual gift allowance of £3,000, which means they can give away that figure each year (to whoever they wish) without it becoming liable for inheritance tax.

Alternatively, they may consider setting up a bare trust and naming the grandchildren as the beneficiaries. The trust can be used to pay school fees and won’t be subject to inheritance or income tax.

Do remember that the rules relating to tax can be complex, are subject to change at any time, and will depend on individual circumstances. It’s always worth seeking professional advice if you’re looking to fund school fees in a tax-efficient way or are considering setting up a trust.

As with any form of investing, the earlier you start, the bigger your potential returns

4. Take some basic financial steps to prepare

Step 1: Start investing as soon as possible

As with any form of investing, the earlier you start, the bigger your potential returns. A financial planner will help you devise the right strategy, and identify the level of risk you’re willing (and can afford) to take in order to achieve your investment goals.

There will always be an element of risk when investing, as the value of your investments can go down as well as up, and you may not get back the full amount invested.

Step 2: Maximise your tax-efficient saving options

An Individual Savings Account (ISA) allows each parent to invest up to £20,000 per year. The money invested will grow in a tax-free environment, meaning that any income, such as interest, dividends or capital growth, is exempt from tax.

For more on ISAs and other tax-efficient investments, see 5 ways to make tax-efficient investments

Step 3: Set up a Junior ISA for your child

Investing in a Junior ISA is an excellent way for grandparents, aunts, uncles and family friends to gift and contribute over the years. While your child can’t access it until they’re 18 and therefore won’t be able to use it towards their school education, it’ll be a valuable nest egg for them to put towards university fees and student living costs.

There’s a maximum annual contribution limit of £9,000 and, like any ISA, growth is tax-free.

If you want to read more on child savings, see Savings and investments for children

Step 4: Review your life insurance, critical illness or income protection

You may already have insurance in place to protect your loved ones in times of need. If you are planning to send your children to a private school, make sure you include school fees and accompanying costs within your calculations.

Step 5: Seek professional guidance

An independent financial planner will be able to help you define your goals for your children’s education. They’ll then connect them with your broader objectives, and work with you to develop a financial plan that’ll help you reach them.

Amber River Financial Planning

If you’d like to make an early start investing and planning for your child’s private education, speak to one of Amber River financial planners. They’ll help you put in place a financial strategy to achieve your goals.

Get in touch

To speak to us about your investment goals, or to arrange an appointment, call 0800 915 0000, or alternatively use our contact form here.