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Last week’s Moral Money: ‘Is it wrong to send one child to private school – but not the other?’

Dear Moral Money,

I have two children – a son and a daughter aged nine and 10. Ever since they were little, my wife and I had our hearts set on enrolling them in one of the best schools in our area.

For a long time, covering the annual fees of £16,000 per child felt financially within reach. But the recent stock market turmoil means our investments are down 20pc. So the other night, my wife and I had to have the heartbreaking conversation where we admitted that we just cannot afford to send both of them to private school.

However, we do have enough saved to cover the fees for one of them. In our opinion, our eldest would benefit the most. She has always done well academically, whereas our son is not quite as studious. Our daughter is also extremely musically talented and the music department at this school is second-to-none.

Is it wrong to send one child to private school but not the other? I would be horrified if it made our youngest think we loved him less than his sister. But we always wanted to give our children the best education we could afford.

RB, via email

It seems a shame that one of your children should miss out on the high-quality education you always dreamed of giving them. However, you might not have to give up on that dream just yet. As long as you’re clever with your money, it might be possible both could still be privately educated.

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One way to significantly cut fees is to enroll your children in sixth form college, rather than the full seven years of secondary school. This means you’ll only have to cover two years’ worth of fees for both kids – an overall saving of £160,000.

Another option is bursaries. According to the Independent Schools Council, over a third of privately educated pupils receive some form of financial assistance. Perhaps your virtuous child could be eligible for a scholarship. Some schools also offer “eligible family” schemes where siblings of existing students get a discount – so if your eldest is enrolled, the other could soon follow.

If you cannot get assistance from the school, family could be your next best bet. In lieu of an inheritance, the kids’ grandparents can give up to £3,000 a year tax-free by using up their annual gift allowance.

Alternatively, they could set up a ‘bare trust’ in one of their names. With a bare trust, the trustee can withdraw money at any time as long as it’s for the child, allowing the grandparents to contribute to the school fees.

If you do decide to enroll your eldest in private school but not her brother, there is a risk it could seriously hurt his self-esteem, especially as he gets older. Remember, there are plenty of ways to enrich your child’s education without going the whole hog and paying for private school.

Instead of spending that £16,000 a year on school fees, for example, you could put it towards private tuition, sports clubs or music lessons. That way, both children will benefit from the money and can receive a better education.

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Poll results: Should our reader send only one child to private school?

Yes – it’s better that at least one receives a private education – 12pc

Yes – but the other child should be compensated with private tuition, for example – 14pc

No – it’s not fair on the second child and both should be treated equally – 61pc

No – private school isn’t worth it – 13pc


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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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