Planning for private school

Like any investment, private school takes research and financial planning


Sending your child to a private school is an important decision. It’s an investment in your child’s future that might take financial planning, says Turnbull School director Gareth Reid.

It’s important to assess your child’s needs and understand that it may be a long-term commitment, says Reid.

Gareth Reid. Photo Courtesy Turnbull School

“Turnbull School goes up to Grade 8,” he says, “so you’ve got many years you might have to budget for.”

Once parents decide on a private school, schedule a tour of the school and learn what it has to offer.

“Find out what the student-to-teacher ratio is, what the facilities are like and if you can, talk to other parents,” says Reid. “It’s a big decision with a long-term commitment, and I think most of the parents we engage with see the value and know it’s worth it.”

Kate Wigston, junior high school principal at St. Laurent Academy, says it’s all about planning.

Kate Wigston. Photo Courtesy St-Laurent Academy

“Some parents will have to budget carefully,” says Wigston, “but they’ll do it because their child’s education and needs are important.”

Wigston says that the parents she speaks with understand the benefit of their child attending a private school and they want to provide that advantage.

“Parents look at our curriculum and see that we offer different activities that often aren’t available in the public system,” says Wigston. “And they see it as an opportunity to broaden their child’s horizons, develop their skills and build their confidence in a small class size, so for them it’s worth it.”   

Sarah Craig, executive director of the Conference of Independent Schools of Ontario (CIS Ontario), emphasizes the significance of attending an independent school as a valuable investment.

Sarah Craig. Photo Credit Caley Taylor Photography

“When selecting a school for your child, thorough research is essential,” Craig says. “The internet serves as an excellent starting point. Our website showcases the diverse offerings of our 44 Ontario member schools. Consulting other associations and the Ontario Ministry of Education can provide additional insights.”

Craig recommends narrowing the search to independent schools that align well with the child’s needs. “Attending an open house is highly recommended,” she says, and while in-person visits are optimal, many schools offer virtual tours. “Exploring any summer programs the school offers is a great way for your child to get a sense of the institution,” she says.

Craig suggests parents create a checklist of preferences, such as class size, tenure of the school, specialized programs, availability of support services, accreditation status, and affiliations. She observes that the demand for private education has surged in recent years. Still, “affordability remains a consideration for many families,” she says, noting that some schools provide scholarships or financial assistance opportunities.

A private school is an investment in a child’s education and future, says Judith Cane, a retired money coach and financial planner.

Judith Cane. Photo Credit Michelle Valberg

“And believe me, it will affect your lifestyle,” says Ottawa-based Cane, “so if you can, make a financial plan ahead of time.” Cane herself sent her child to a private school up to Grade 4 and had to plan her own finances carefully in order to accomplish it. “I know it can be tough,” says Cane, “but if that private education is important for you and for your child, and you are really determined, you can make it work—but there are some financial sacrifices you’ll have to make.”

Cane advises that parents do their research: find out what the actual annual costs are, keeping in mind that the lower grades are more expensive. Ask for details. Can your child bring their own lunch? How will your child get to school? What are the uniform requirements? It all adds up.

“Check out scholarships, bursaries and even possible athletic accreditation,” says Cane. “They all can help soften the amount of tuition.” Her best long-term advice? “Most couples don’t have the financial chat early in their relationship, or sometimes if ever,” says Cane. “Have the discussion about rent, buying a house, having children and yes, private schooling, if that’s the route you want to go, and make a long-term financial plan.”


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