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Private schools beating economic woe

PUBLISHED: 13:19 26 February 2009 | UPDATED: 15:58 07 September 2010

Susanna Wilkey HAMPSTEAD and Highgate's top independent schools are bucking the recession as applications for places rocket. The £4,850-a-term University College School in Frognal has seen its 11-plus applications rise 11 per cent while Highgate School, w

Susanna Wilkey

HAMPSTEAD and Highgate's top independent schools are bucking the recession as applications for places rocket.

The £4,850-a-term University College School in Frognal has seen its 11-plus applications rise 11 per cent while Highgate School, which costs £4,730 per term, has seen a 20 per cent increase.

The schools are part of a nationwide trend of private schools bucking the economic downturn, which some heads attribute to parents' frustration with state education and their desire for the best education possible for their children.

They believe families are trying to save on expensive boarding fees by applying for local places and cutting back on expensive family holidays, second homes, new cars and entertainments.

Mark James, director of admissions at Highgate School, said: "People protect their children to the utmost even if it means not going on holiday or out for dinner or even remortgaging their house. They do not put a price on their children's education and that is the last thing to go if times are hard.

"Some boarding schools' fees are more than double what we charge here, so boarding is one of those things that could go first.

"But the rise is a very strange thing, just when we have a credit crunch. The picture looks as strong as it has ever been and a rise is certainly good for Highgate. But we are not being blase about it because when it comes to September, who knows?"

The Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference (HMC), which represents the heads of around 250 independent schools including UCS and Highgate, has released research showing there are more than two applicants for every 11-year-old place.

Headteacher of UCS, Kenneth Durham, said: "The rise is counter intuitive and not what you'd expect in light of the economic circumstances.

"What we must take a certain amount of comfort from is that it certainly implies there are a lot of people who want this kind of education for their children. But these are difficult times and we are not recession proof."

Chairman of the HMC, Bernard Trafford said: "People nearly always sacrifice things like new cars and skiing holidays to give their child a private education. It is a major investment in a child's future and we should not be surprised if it is one of the last things to go when times are hard."

There has also been a surge in demand for top grammar schools including The Henrietta Barnett School in Hampstead Garden Suburb. Applications have jumped by 117 in a year to 1,298. Jo Velleman, development director at HBS, said: "We have very good results at this school and if applications to other schools have gone down it means parents are doing what they are entitled to do, which is looking around for the best education they can find for their children."

Meanwhile, state school applications in Camden borough have fallen from 2,594 in 2008 to 2,403 this year.


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