Private schools in UK struggling as coronavirus costs bite

Apr 1, 2020 by

Some independent schools offering large discounts as foreign students stay away

Private schools in the UK are facing a battle for survival in the face of the coronavirus crisis as parents who have lost their income cancel direct debits and overseas pupils who have gone home decide whether to return.

As the economic fallout from the pandemic begins to bite, there are fears that a number of smaller independent schools, which are already struggling, will be driven out of business.

Many are offering fee discounts of anything from 10% right up to 50% for the summer term to take into account the fact that schools have closed and are only able to offer an online education.

Others are offering rebates for meals, transport and extra curricular activities.

Looking ahead to the autumn, schools are promising a fee freeze for the next academic year, with increased bursaries and hardship funds for families hit by the economic downturn, in order to try to keep places full and parents on board.

Neil Roskilly, the chief executive of the Independent Schools Association which represents 540 private schools in the UK, warned that not all schools would survive. “Five or six close every year or amalgamate, and that’s just in normal times. We could be looking at maybe double that. We simply don’t know,” he said.

“A lot of it will depend on where the world’s economy is going, and whether people have got the jobs they once had.”

There is also uncertainty about overseas pupils, most of whom have now gone home though a number remain stranded in the UK, being cared for by their schools. According to the Independent Schools Council (ISC), there are around 55,000 overseas pupils in ISC schools, of which almost 10,000 are Chinese, 5,000 are from Hong Kong and 2,500 from Russia.

“We don’t know how many of the children want to come back, and even if they do want to come back, whether they will be able to leave their country, or whether their country is still going to be in lockdown,” saids Roskilly.

“The vast majority are saying they want to come back if they can. They just don’t know what the situation’s going to be. What schools are doing is hoping for the best but planning for the worst.”

Source: Private schools in UK struggling as coronavirus costs bite | Education | The Guardian

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