The credit crunch is even hitting comparatively wealthy parents, who send their children to private schools. Fees for private education climbed from 6.9 billion in 2001 to an estimated 7.9 billion last year, forcing parents to apply for bank loans to fund the education of their children. 

A 38 per cent hike in applications to Sainsburys Bank for loans to pay for private school fees in the last twelve months, confirms the rising trend. The loans manager from Sainsburys Bank, says that he expects numbers to grow even further, as there has been a 50 per cent rise in applications since 1999. 

He continued by saying that private schools, who now educate 620,000 children, have consistently increased fees year on year. The increasing number of parents, who are taking out loans, should shop around to find the most competitive rates, he says. 

Families in the London area spend more on private education than elsewhere according to ONS data. The average amount they spent was 577.20 pounds, whereas the East Midlands spent the smallest amount with an average of 140.40 pounds a year. All households were covered by the survey, including those homes with no children and families who did not have children in private education. 

The Independent Schools Council commissioned a separate survey, which reported that the average fees to send a boy to a boarding school are 21,600 pounds a year and the corresponding figure for girls is 20,400 pounds. Parents sending two to seven-year-olds to a private, pre-preparatory school pay between 1,000 pounds and 1,500 pounds a term. 

Fee Fixing Allegations – The annual rise in private school fees has come under close public scrutiny recently, following the order by the Office of Fair Trading for 50 of the leading public schools in the country to pay 3.5 million pounds in fines, after they were found to be complicit in alleged fee fixing. 

The schools, which include Eton, Cheltenham Ladies College, Harrow and Winchester will pay 10,000 pounds each and also pay an average of 60,000 pounds towards the formation of a new educational charity. The schools admitted to exchanging sensitive and detailed information over a period of three years regarding the day and boarding fees they intended to charge. 

Previous surveys have reported that many thousands of parents, who have become disillusioned with the state sector, are making huge sacrifices to enable their children to attend private school. Many of them have two or three jobs and have cancelled family holidays so their children can enjoy a private education. 

An analysis of many thousands of postcodes, supplied by 900 member schools, has been conducted by the ISC. 

The results which follow are intriguing – Almost a quarter (23.8 per cent) of the ISC pupils came from average to below average backgrounds – 43,000 students (9.3 per cent) had postcodes where the income of the household fell below the national average – Almost a quarter of the 43,000 come from areas which have been officially designated as hard-pressed and include families in high rise flats, lone parents on council estates and struggling families with low incomes. 

ING Direct conducted another survey recently, which found that a considerable number of parents (44 per cent) are saving cash specifically for the education of their children. This figure is considerably higher than the 12 per cent recorded some years ago. 

An ISC spokesman said that the importance parents placed on high quality education was confirmed by the sacrifices parents were prepared to make through their willingness to take out loans and pay interest on them. 

He said that 25 per cent of parents who were sending their children to private schools had average or below average salaries and that many of them had cancelled exotic holidays or the purchase of new cars to fund private education for their children.