The real costs of private education

A report commissioned by the Independent School’s Association (ISA) identified the cost of sending a child to private school at approximately €3,500 per annum spent solely on tuition fees. But what are the other costs involved in private education?

Tuition fees vary from school to school, but all fees increase as the child progresses. Different fees reflect different operational costs for schools. St Edward’s, St Martin’s, San Anton, San Andrea and St Catherine’s were taken as a sample from the 45 licensed independent schools, as they represent the vast majority, particularly for secondary schools.

Tuition fees, high as they may be, do not represent the total cost of a child’s education. Transport costs, uniforms, textbooks and stationery were just some of the items taken into consideration for this analysis. Prices for these items did not vary much between the schools so an average was taken for all students of the same age group.

Transport costs vary according to the age of the child, with higher costs incurred for younger children when supervision is necessary. It is also dependent on the distance from the school.

The cost of uniforms generally increase as the child grows, though by a negligible amount.

Textbooks costs increase as the child progresses through school, since older children require more books. The most expensive grade for textbooks is around Form 3, when the child is choosing optional subjects to be studied for throughout the next few years. Book lists for the following years will mostly include books that were used in previous years, as well as past papers.

Stationery costs may vary from school to school as well as from pupil to pupil, but an average was taken.

This list is by no means exhaustive. A child attending private school may encounter all sorts of extra costs. Extra-curricular activities are encouraged by all private schools and will incur further costs.

Ballet lessons for a child aged eight attending St Martin’s College cost as much as €112 per term, not including leotards, ballet shoes and other related clothing. Similarly, tennis lessons at the same school cost €52 per term – not including equipment – and €100 per term for fencing(again, without equipment).

Lessons after school, organised by the schools themselves, in activities such as guitar and dancing, will cost up to €35 per lesson, following which transport must be arranged for the child.

Outside lessons are also costly, with swimming lessons at a local swimming club costing €150 per term and football lessons at a local football club costing €300 per year.

The competitive academic attitude of children attending these schools will often mean that children will attend private lessons after school in subjects they are weak in. Group lessons may cost as much as €7 for each lesson while one-to-one lessons will increase to €15. If the child is weak in more than one subject, this could amount to a substantial amount of money spent each week.

Children with learning disabilities may require the services of a facilitator, which requires payment out of the parents’ own pocket. A full time facilitator will cost up to €9,600 per year, though the Eden Foundation Inclusion Programme will subsidise 75% of this fee if the child is included in the programme.

Government subsidies exist to help parents sending their children to private schools as this takes pressure off of the government to educate children. Tax rebates of €395 per student – accounting for 15% of tuition fees – are currently available.

In the scholastic year 2008-2009, 11.9% of the student population attended independent schools, compared to 61.4% at state schools and 26.7% at church schools.

It is important to note that this percentage of children attending private schools does not account for a privileged minority but includes the education of children coming from a broad spectrum of social classes.

The financial ability and willingness to invest in the child’s education is a common denominator among parents. Fees experienced by these parents are not low in comparison to family incomes in Malta.

A family with a household income of €16,500 will spend as much as 26.5% of their total income on the schooling of just one child attending school at St Edward’s College in Year 4 (eight years of age). If that same family has two children attending the same school – another child in Year 9 (age 14) – as much as 60% of their income may be spent on education.

Sending children to other private schools may incur costs of around 20% of total income per child at this income bracket. Add that to a mortgage, and the family is under a lot of pressure to make ends meet.

High operational costs on the schools’ end does not allow for lower fees to be charged. Teachers’ salaries, rental charges for school premises and IT and other equipment contribute to the ever-increasing costs facing independent schools. According to the Independent School’s Association (ISA) report, fees are at their highest sustainable level and can only be increased enough to account for annual inflation.

The projected number of the student population is set to decline from 58,000 in the scholastic year 2009-2010 to 53,000 in the scholastic year 2019-2020 due to declining birth rates. A church school expansion of €20 million is underway, increasing the number of student to be taken in by Church schools by 2,000 students. A combination of these factors is putting further pressure on independent schools.

The ISA claim that if government does not intervene to assist these schools the entire industry will fall into jeopardy. Educating a child at a private school costs the government, and hence the taxpayer, less than at a state school. According to the report,€1,655 a year is spent by government on educating a child in the private sector as opposed to €2,217 at a state school. The ISA argues that if the private sector were to close down, the cost to absorb the 7,000 students currently educated at private schools into Church and State schools will be as high as €3,000 per head.

The academic performance of children attending independent schools proves that this sector needs to be encouraged. Studies have shown that while independent schools educated 8.1% of children in the scholastic year 2007-8 attending secondary school, they accounted for 12.5% of youngsters who attended post-secondary courses, leading to tertiary education.

The ISA has recommended to government that €17 million in aid be granted to parents of children attending independent schools. This could either come in the form of increasing the tax rebate of €395 (15% of tuition fees) to €730 (29% in primary schools and 27% in secondary schools) per student, or through the issue of vouchers that may be redeemed at private schools.

If one prefers private health care they pay for it so why worry because they have to pay for private education?
Michael Farrugia
I had great difficultly understanding your reply to che tom, I am all for government schools but when people reply as you did you do little to further the cause. It is wonderful to hear that you have a 4 year old child who can speak 3 languages, I only hope their English at least is better than yours as indeed education really does start at home dear surfturtle.......
Pauline Moran
The BMW's and prestige cars you talk about are probably of someone wiser than you are pobably of those like you who think they are living in a Hollywood movie not of those people who are trying to make ends meet. This notion that private schools are better than public schools is only a fantasy which was implanted in your heads by someone who drank spirits 'ONLY' from a CRYSTAL GLASS. The state schools are funded by the people. Private schools are NOT! The state funds his own schools and not a private run business. Period. We thank Mr.Mintoff who made schools for free and obligatory. He didnt make it only for Labour supporters but for every Maltese citizen...even for your kids! There you go. If you cannot afford a private school any longer you have an option. My child for one goes to a government primary schools, she is 4yrs and speaks already 3 languages. So that's all bull you're talking about! Education starts at home dear Che Tom.
rohan kaur
Not everyone who sends their children to private schools lives the life described by these ill informed individuals. There are many who make personal sacrifices to ensure their children the best education available. Whislt many others (the majority it seems) opt to allow their fellow tax payers (sorry I meant government) to fund their children's education entirely. By the way I live near a government primary school and I can tell you that there are plenty of prestige cars out the front in the morning and at the end of the school day. Its all about priorities, some would rather drive a BMW than pay for an education. But ofcourse they can afford such luxury when the tax payer foots the bill to educate their children.
Joe Tanti
When they are saying that they want the goverment to finance their children education thay are implying is that the common people ,the hard working factory worker etc will be frking out more taxes do that these bloodsuckers will h ave more money to spend on high powered cars ,other luxuries such as boats heated swimming pools..and whatever their hearts desire.What arrogance,next time they will be asking to be financed for their offsprings weddings and birthday parties.Now lets wait and see,remember these bloodsuckers in their main are avid supporters and contributors ,financial or otherwise of the party in power,namely GonziPN.
Pauline Moran
You need to have a face similar to your behind to ask the public to pay for a private business. If you are asking money from the government, know that, the government's money are not his own, but the people's, which in their masses send their kids to public schools! We will NEVER accept that our money will be given to parents who send their kids to private schools. Fullstop! If they made a wrong choice they cannot pretend that we'll pay the price!!!
Antoine Galea
The ISA has recommended to government that €17 million in aid be granted to parents of children attending independent schools. How can they (the parents) pretend to have an aid from the government? It was their choice to put their children in private schools so it's up to them to pay for their choice. If I buy a Ferrari, I cannot ask somebody else to pay for the license, insurance, petrol etc... It was my choice so I have all the consequences. Stop pretending and think properly (make proper accounts) before making decisions. It was your choice (parents and association - ISA), so now pay for your choices.
Well, they all have the choice of sending them to Public Schools.