Experts warn against hiking private school fees in 2021

Two South African governing body associations have advised the country’s 3,000 fee-paying schools against price hikes for next year.

The Sunday Times reported that the Independent Schools Association of Southern Africa (Isasa) – which represents 793 member schools including Hilton, Michaelhouse and Kearsney College – confirmed that for the first time its members will levy no fee increase or a below-inflation increase.

In addition, independent school education providers Spark Schools and AdvTech have indicated that they will not increase fees next year.

Paul Colditz, chief executive of the Federation of Governing Bodies of South African Schools said the financial hardships caused by the Covid-19 pandemic had hit private schools harder than public schools. “I think you will see a decrease in enrolment in private schools next year,” he said.

Anthea Cereseto, national chief executive of the Governing Body Foundation, said the federation did not advise schools not to increase fees, but to ‘limit it as far as possible’.

“We would consider it somewhat reckless if an ordinary public school took no notice of the economic position of families. We are really emphasising cutbacks and delaying the implementation of proposed projects.”

Price increase 

Data from a BusinessTech’s 2020 private school analysis found that the average fee hike among the 20 most private expensive schools is around 7%.

When BusinessTech first started tracking the most expensive schools in 2014, only one school (Hilton College) was priced over R200,000 for boarding and tuition – now in 2020, over 30 schools have moved into that price bracket.

Hilton, and nearby MichaelHouse, have since pushed into the R300,000 per year bracket.

As prices continue to climb, parents are starting to feel the pinch – with financial difficulties cited as one of the key reasons children are leaving private schools.

As a result of the increase and continued fears of the coronavirus, a growing number of parents are choosing to home school their children, said homeschooling provider Impaq.

The group reported a total of 19,000 students in March, with this number rising to 24,000 at the end of August, primarily driven by demand for more structured learning, said Impaq’s Louise Schoonwinkel.

As the hard lockdown started and schools nationwide were shut; many parents had to take aspects of their children’s education into their own hands, said Schoonwinkel.

“While many teachers tried to adapt to online education, the reality is that this wasn’t the core competency of many schools. Teachers had to brush up on online teaching skills and even use some technology for the first time ever,” she said.

In addition to the health crisis, families globally had to deal with an economic crisis this year, said Schoonwinkel.

“Amid this backdrop, many parents who have traditionally sent their children to private schools have found that they’ve had to look at more affordable options while maintaining a high level of education for their children.”

Crawford Schools owner AdvTech, and Curro, have both talked up the success of their online learning programmes launched in recent month following the initial Covid-19 outbreak, and resulting temporary closure of schools.

Read: This is the school drop out rate in South Africa

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