Whilst many parents will return to work, large numbers will be in situations where they find it difficult to know how secure their job is and what penalties they may be asked to take, for example, salary cuts. For those who are self-employed, or directors of businesses, the longer-term prosperity supporting their income will be a cause of concern.

These will have to decide whether the benefits of an independent education are, in their opinion, worthy of a tightening of belts in order to facilitate continuing in the independent sector, or whether this is a time to change course with there being little loss of face which may have been a concern in earlier times; these times are so unusual there will be many making lifestyle changes to adapt to new situations, be they financial or borne of anxiety and trepidation regarding the ‘new normal’, a phrase widely used but yet to be defined. 

All this is in the context of many believing, rightly or wrongly, that the education of those in schools currently has been severely compromised.  Whilst not wishing to be too cynical, one wonders of there will be a scapegoat made of the situation – ‘my Freddie was at a critical stage in his education in 2020, and was never really given the chance to thrive…..’  Some would use this to justify deciding not to continue with school fees at this time.

Financial Uncertainty for Parents

Schools will need to act fast, firstly to retain pupils, possibly by introducing a scheme, underwritten by some insurance, where school fees in the short term can be paid in a manner that is affordable and attractive to parents, whilst maintaining the financial security of the school.  Moving a child in the immediate future is comparatively easy, when children have not been mixing regularly with their peers and they have will not suffer from ‘fear of missing out’. 

However, once the new term has started and the friendship groups once more begin to strengthen then parents may find it more difficult to move a child, knowing that their mental state may already be fragile and realising how much the return to normality has meant to their child.  There will be many social occasions convened and everyone will want to be part of such occasions once society returns to near normal. A fee structure that allows the parents to be enticed back in the short term is of paramount importance.

Secondly, schools will have to work even harder, in the longer term, to showcase what they are doing over and above what is expected of the local maintained school to retain those lured back by affordable fee structuring. Some of the hallmarks of many successful independent schools are particularly threatened by the pandemic.

The co-curricular programmes such as CCF, music and drama, often involve necessary close contact between participants and this will be on hold for many, even after restrictions are lifted. There will be portions of society that will resist involvement in anything where it is not possible to observe social distancing. 

And, now that it has been shown to be within the capability of many to, for example, make music whilst not being in the same building as others, many will develop their creativity in that way, possibly having a wider field of people to nurture their skills and with whom to share their talents. However, clever marketing could make the very absence of ‘extras’ a more attractive option for the parents already struggling to pay; if no one is going on expensive sports tours and the like, then their child will not feel marginalised by not participating.