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Re-evaluating the costs of education in the face of a pandemic

Exploring the costs of the various schooling options available for parents.

The Covid-19 pandemic has disrupted almost every aspect of our lives, including education. As we wait for the official re-opening of public schools which has been postponed to February 15, many parents feel concerned about the 2021 academic year.

With the benefit of hindsight, most of us now know that homeschooling is not for the fainthearted and can be a full-time job. If you worked from home during last year’s lockdown, you will no doubt appreciate just how difficult it is to focus on your work while homeschooling your children on the side.

For many parents, facing another year of interruptions when it comes to education has forced them to investigate alternatives to the traditional school. But, everything comes at a price, and in this article, we explore the costs of the various options available for parents.

Traditional government schooling

Reputable government schools in our major centres charge school fees ranging between around R2 800 and R5 000 per month, with these fees being generally all-inclusive with regard to extra-mural activities. Some schools charge additional fees for activities such as music and art lessons, school outings, and tours. These schools provide a range of mainstream sports which keep learners active throughout the afternoons, into the evenings and over weekends. With most sporting and extra-mural activities having been put on hold as a result of the pandemic, many parents who work full-time have had to incur additional aftercare and au-pairing costs, the costs of which we have broken down later on in this article.

Private schooling

Contrasted to this is the cost of private schooling which can be considerably higher than fees charged by government schools, and this includes a number of relatively recent entrants into the private education space including the likes of Curro, Reddam and Valenture, with the latter now offering campus-based education in larger centres. Fees to attend one of Valenture Institute’s boutique campuses range from between R5 900 and R9 300 per month, while Reddam Constantia’s fees range from R5 593 to R14 934 depending on your child’s grade. From a mere comparative perspective, school fees at Curro Hillcrest in Durban range from R4 780 to R7 975 per month, while St Mary’s Waverly in Johannesburg charges from R9 150 per month (Grade R) to R16 800 per month (Grade 12).

Online schooling

Many parents, fearful of school campus life being continually interrupted as a result of the pandemic, have investigated online learning options, and the choice seems to be growing. Valenture’s online fees range from R5 600 to R8 000 per month, and class sizes are limited. Curro also has an online offering for school learners at a flat rate of R4 200 per month regardless of the child’s grade. Think Digital Offering, a virtual schooling provider, delivers online school education with tutor support from R4 437 per month (Grade R) to R14 841 per month (Grade 12). Most cost-effective options for online schooling include Teneo School which charges a flat fee of R2 176 per month regardless of your child’s grade. Similarly, Brainline offers virtual schooling at R1 833 per month, while Virtual Schools charge R1 300 per month.

If your older child is sufficiently disciplined then online schooling may well be an option, although you would need to factor in the costs of extra-mural activities. If you are contemplating online schooling for your younger children (primary school), bear in mind that you would still need a physical presence at home to care for them and assist them with their studies, and this could add an additional layer of costs. Similarly, you would need to budget for their extra-mural activities such as club football lessons, horse-riding, ballet or tennis. If you’re working full time, you may need to incur transport or au-pairing costs to transport your children to and from their extra-murals.

Cottage schools or home-schooling centres

Cottage schools and smaller home-schooling centres have become more popular over the years, being particularly attractive to those learners who aren’t well-suited to mainstream-type education. These schools generally offer smaller, more intimate campuses with small tuition classes and more personalised tuition support. In terms of costs, well-known Seren House in Randburg charges tuition fees of R4 300 per month, while Sandra’s House, also Randburg-based, charges R3 800 per month. Maara House in Cape Town charges between R5 000 and R5 850 per month per child. Tate International charges fees ranging from R3 600 per month for Grade R to R8 200 per month for Grade 12. Once again, you may need to factor in transport costs and the costs of extra-murals for your child.

Special needs education

If your child has learning disabilities or requires special needs education, you can expect to pay higher schools fees in return for more specialised expertise and individual care. Oakley House in Cape Town charges from R7 455 per month for Grade R up to R11 958 per month for Grade 12. Shanti Private Remedial School, based in Table View, provides special needs tuition from Grade R to Grade 7 at a fee of R7 250 per month. The Academy for Learning’s tuition comes at a cost of R6 200 per month from Grade R to R7 400 per month for Grade 6. Crossroads School in Johannesburg costs R12 090 per month (11 months) regardless of your child’s grade. If you intend hiring an au pair to assist with your child’s transport, care and tutoring, you can expect to pay more for an au pair who has the necessary experience and/or qualifications to work with special needs children.

Aftercare, au pairing and school transport

Most schools tend to charge between R600 and R1 000 per month for aftercare which includes homework assistance. Where the aftercare facility is separate from the school and provides pick-up and drop-off services, you can expect to pay between R2 000 and R2 500 for this benefit. There are a number of private companies that provide safe, reliable transport for school children needing to be lifted to and from school and/or extra-mural activities, and the costs will depend largely on the distance and frequency.

When it comes to au pairing, the going rate can range from R60 to R120 per hour or a full day rate of around R350 – R500, depending on the nature of the job. For instance, au pairs required to work with three or four siblings or with special needs children may charge a higher rate. An au pair who has a regular position of three hours every afternoon can earn around R5 000 per month, plus petrol reimbursement at AA rates.

When comparing schools and aftercare options, it is important to ensure that you are always comparing apples with apples to ensure that you are not faced with unexpected bills. For instance, some aftercare facilities include lunch and afternoon snacks in their costs, whereas others require parents to send meals or snacks for the children.

Further, some online schools have unlimited class sizes whereas others restrict their class sizes to ensure that your child still receives individual attention, albeit online. When investigating online schooling, be sure to understand exactly what is meant by ‘tutor support’. If the online tutor assistance is not sufficient you may end up incurring additional costs in the form of personal tutors for your children. Depending on your child’s age and the subject they need assistance with, private tutors in major centres charge around R150 and R300 an hour.

Textbooks, course material and stationery are expensive, so find out to what extent these are included in the school fees.

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Craig Torr

Crue Invest (Pty) Ltd

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