Getting little Johnny or Jemima into a ‘good’ i.e. fee-paying, school may well be top of many aspiring parents’ ‘to do’ lists, but you have to be prepared to dig deep. A good education costs serious money.

According to one report, parents of school leavers who opted for the independent schools route from start to finish will pay, on average a total of £156,6531 in fees.

During the period from 2003 when today’s university freshers would have been just five-years-old, to the time they left school this summer, their parents would have seen average annual fees almost double from £7,308 in 2003 to £13,341 in 2016. And that is just for day pupils. Choose a boarding school and you can pay as much as three times that amount. Bear in mind too, that this is just for the fees – there is also a never-ending list of ‘extras’ that you will have to pay for, from uniform and school trips to ipads and music lessons.

Overall, school fees for day pupils have risen by an average of 21% over the past five years. That is a rate of growth eight percentage points higher than the increase in the Retail Price Index (13%) and four times faster than the 5% rise in full-time gross annual earnings over the same period.

The total average cost of a private school education in London, from the age of five to 18, is even higher at £179,145, making it the most expensive place to educate your child in Britain. London is very closely followed by the South East (£175,068) and the South West (£160,350). Parents in the North pay the least at £126,6092.

This means that the average annual private school fee in 2016 of £13,341 is equivalent to 39% of annual average gross full-time earnings of £34,5453, 11% higher than the 2003 comparable ratio of 28%.

That doesn’t seem to be deterring anyone though. Figures show that although the average fee has grown by 21% since 2011, pupil numbers remain largely unchanged compared to five years ago. While the number of senior school pupils (11 to 16) has fallen slightly (by 3%), pupils in the other age groups have actually increased. The number of sixth formers (17 to 19) has grown by 10%, children in nursery schools (0 to 3) and those in junior school (4 to 10) have both risen by 6%.

So if you’re planning on joining the growing band of parents opting for a private education for their child, then be prepared to dig deep.

Start saving

As you could start paying school fees as early as when your child is two, if you choose to put your child in a private nursery, you might not have the luxury of time. The same applies if your child starts in reception at a pre-preparatory school. They could start as soon as they’re four-years-old. That doesn’t give you much time for your investments to grow.

Make sure your existing investments are still performing as well as you need them to. Regularly reviewing your portfolio to ensure it meets your needs is vital. And don’t forget there are also likely to be university or college fees further down the line, so continuing a regular savings pattern is essential to cover future years’ fees. Find out more about how to save for these in How to pay your child’s way through university.

Many schools will let you pay by monthly direct debit, rather than in an annual lump sum or once a term. If that’s the case, then get into the habit of saving the money you need for future years’ fees as well.

If you have a child of primary school age, you could start to save the money for their senior school fees or university costs as soon as possible. By drip-feeding money into the stock market you keep your savings manageable and also benefit from pound/cost averaging; so you buy more when markets are down and benefit when markets rise. A good education doesn’t come cheap, but the lesson is to start saving as soon as you can.

Important information

The value of investments and the income from them can go down as well as up and investors may not get back the amount invested. Eligibility to invest and the value of tax savings of an ISA depends on personal circumstances and all tax rules may change. This information does not constitute investment advice and should not be used as the basis for any investment decision nor should it be treated as a recommendation for any investment. Investors should also note that the views expressed may no longer be current and may have already been acted upon by Fidelity. Fidelity Personal Investing does not give personal recommendations. If you are unsure about the suitability of an investment, you should speak to an authorised financial adviser.

1 Using the average day fee for each year from 2003 to 2016.

2 Source: ISC as at January 2016; North includes the North West, North East and Yorkshire and the Humber

3 All earnings figures are sourced from the ONS Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings (ASHE) survey and are based on estimated average annual earnings for full-time employees. ASHE data for 2015 has been uplifted by national average weekly earnings growth to calculate 2016 estimates.

Important Information

The value of investments and the income from them can go down as well as up, so you may not get back what you invest. This information does not constitute investment advice and should not be used as the basis for any investment decision nor should it be treated as a recommendation for any investment or action. You should regularly review your investment objectives and choices and if you are unsure whether an investment is suitable for you, you should contact an authorised financial adviser.