Many Scottish private schools ‘barely break even’ – SCIS

Pension hikes, salary raises and rates reform are putting pressure on the finances of Scottish private schools, says SCIS director John Edward

Many private schools in Scotland “barely break even”, according to the director of the Scottish Council of Independent Schools (SCIS).

John Edward’s comment to The Times came after a warning from the SCIS, which represents over 70 schools, that its members were under increasing financial pressure.

The SCIS says its members have warned fees will rise as they accommodate staff pay increases and pension contributions. The Scottish government also plans to remove non-domestic rates relief from private schools.

Mr Edward said to The Times: “You’ve either got to put fees up, reduce the amount of means-tested assistance, or sell off assets. Most of our schools barely break even.”

Public sector teacher pay has risen 13% and the need to attract the best staff means some independent schools have to offer more than the state sector.

The SCIS also thinks the Scottish government’s rates reform will put the nation’s private schools at a “competitive disadvantage” at a time when pay and pension pressures mount on all schools.

Writing in TES on the rates reform, Edward said “the impact on schools would be more than £7m per year” and “every penny of that additional tax burden will have to be derived from existing parental fee income, the salary costs of the staff roll, existing school assets, or from the money allocated to means-tested fee assistance”.

Additional pressure will likely be placed on private school finances by the Teachers’ Pension Scheme (TPS) when employer contributions rise from 16.4% to 23.6% in September 2019.

English education company Alpha Plus Group, which runs 20 private schools and colleges, confirmed to Schools Week that it will leave TPS later this year because of the changes.