Putting the kids through independent school has long been one of the defining aspirations of the upper-middle classes. But it isn't getting any cheaper: surveys put the cost of raising a child to the age of 18 at £100,000 or more, and even this substantial sum excludes private education fees and typical university costs of around £30,000.
Sending a child to an independent school (the catch-all term for non-state schools) will cost an average of £8,388 in fees alone this academic year, according to research by Halifax Financial Services. And that's for day pupils - boarding fees now average £18,828 a year.
Fees have doubled in the past decade and continue to rise well ahead of inflation, so a private education could easily end up costing a six-figure sum in total. Although there are cheaper schools, particularly away from London and the south-east, and up to a third of children in effect pay reduced fees (see panel p67), even the Independent Schools Council Information Service (Iscis) concedes that a private education is a huge financial commitment for parents. Are the costs worth it and how can families minimise the pain?