Taxpayers fork out £500m every year to help children go to private schools


Up to £10m a week is spent by taxpayers on funding child benefit for private school pupils – or as much as half a billion pounds a year, it emerged last night.

Analysis by The Independent on Sunday shows there are an estimated 497,079 privately educated children, including those at David Cameron's old school Eton, currently receiving child benefit of between £13.40 and £20.30 a week, meaning the total weekly bill to taxpayers is between £6.7m and £10.1m, or between £346m and £525m a year.

Taxpayers are contributing between £17,420 and £26,390 every week in child benefit to the 1,300 pupils at Eton – or between £905,840 and £1.4m a year in benefits to the world's most prestigious school.

The striking figures will fuel the debate over whether George Osborne is right to axe the universal benefit and restrict it to parents on incomes below £60,000. From 7 January, families with one earner on more than £60,000 will lose the benefit altogether, while those with one earner on between £50,000 and £60,000 will have to pay back a proportion through the tax system. The vast majority of those private school pupils – excluding those on bursaries whose parents are on lower incomes – who currently receive child benefit will see it end next week.

Those in support of keeping universality insist that it is essential to include everyone in society to prevent welfare becoming associated only with the poorest families, and that it also penalises stay-at-home mothers, who receive the benefit directly into their bank account.

Yet the analysis will support the Chancellor and David Cameron's argument that, in a time of economic austerity, the wealthiest families do not need state handouts.

There are 563,000 children in independent schools. Of these, 26,376 are non-British pupils whose parents live abroad and are not entitled to child benefit. A further 39,545 pupils' parents pay reduced fees through means testing, and are therefore unlikely to earn more than £60,000. They have also been discounted from the 497,079 figure because they will be unaffected by the child benefit changes.

However, for an individual family, child benefit goes a small way to helping pay annual private school fees. While a family with one child currently receives £1,055.60 a year in child benefit, the average cost of private school is £13,788. At Eton the annual cost is £32,067. A Family Finances Report by Aviva last year found that families who send their children to private school spend 12 per cent of their income on fees.

A Treasury spokesman said: "The Government is delivering child benefit reforms as simply and fairly as possible. Eighty-five per cent of families with children will continue to receive child benefit in full and see cash rises next year, but those with the broadest shoulders should carry the greatest burden as we deal with Labour's deficit."

peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
Lewis Hamilton will start the Singapore Grand Prix from pole, with Nico Rosberg second and Daniel Ricciardo third
F1... for floodlit Singapore Grand Prix
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvHe is only remaining member of original cast
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Fans hold up a scarf at West Ham vs Liverpool
footballAfter Arsenal's clear victory, focus turns to West Ham vs Liverpool
New Articles
i100... she's just started school
New Articles
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
New Articles
i100... despite rising prices
Holly's review of Peterborough's Pizza Express quickly went viral on social media
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Cover Supervisor

£75 - £90 per day + negotiable: Randstad Education Group: Are you a cover supe...

Marketing Manager - Leicestershire - £35,000

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (CIM, B2B, MS Offi...

Marketing Executive (B2B and B2C) - Rugby, Warwickshire

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly successful organisation wit...

SEN Coordinator + Teacher (SENCO)

£1 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Job Purpose To work closely with the he...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam