An independent school in central London has created a Hardship Fund to support parents with fees over the coming months.
Many independent schools have been continuing education with remote learning since schools shut on 20 March, but questions remained about whether parents would have to pay full fees for the summer term, when their children would be at home.
At Eaton Square School, for parents who are able and wish to pay 100% of the fees, the school deducts 25% towards the Hardship Fund to help other parents from the school. The school will match parents’ donations so that they automatically double.
There is also a one-off discount of 25% against the summer term fees, and normal fees for the next academic year have been frozen, in recognition of the economic impact on parents of the pandemic.
“The school wants to do the right thing by as many people as possible,” said Sebastian Hepher, principal of Eaton Square School.
“Many businesses and jobs will be experiencing large cash flow difficulties and we want to provide the necessary support where we can. As the government is taking steps to protect its citizens, we believe we have a duty to support our own community as much as we can.”
A parent from Eaton Square School said: “I have paid my fees and am happy for 25% to go to the Hardship Fund. I paid the invoice as soon as I got it, because I knew that even though we may do the whole summer term from our homes, the distance learning provided by Eaton Square would still be excellent.”
The Financial Times reported that girls’ school Benenden has offered a 25% discount on summer fees, while some private institutions, such as Eton, have offered discounts of 30% or more, as well as financial aid, extended credit and future fee freezes.
Julie Robinson, chief executive of the Independent Schools Council, said in a statement that schools which are able to reduce fees will be taking a “significant financial hit”, but that “long-term effects on schools will not be evident until much later”.
She said schools are “doing all they can” to continue teaching and learning, which means continuation of their costliest resource, teachers. She said schools have been examining their costs for savings but “most schools do not have large reserves to fall back on”.
“School leaders, teachers and governors are meeting to discuss all of the issues at play, confident that with time and patience, we will get through this together,” said Robinson.