* Read our School Life supplement in its entirety

I mainly shop at Waitrose, but I do the big Saturday shop at Tesco. We’re looking forward to a trip to a safari park in South Africa, but, in the meantime, we’ve had years of camping in France. And don’t tell anyone, but I bought my best summer trousers last year from Asda.


Moffats School, Shropshire

So it is with education. Paying for the luxury brand from finger painting to freshers’ week is not the only option.

First, take a good look at the schools in your area. Are there wholesome village primaries, high-achieving faith schools (and are you of the faith?) or famously good comprehensives or grammar schools? If yes to all the above, then why pay at all? If no, can you move?

Then, look at your child. ‘Some of these decisions depend on ability,’ says Susan Hamlyn, director of The Good Schools Guide’s Advice Service. ‘A very able child will make it into a grammar, so it’s best to plug gaps in a prep school. A less academic child won’t, so it’s best to pay for independent school later when they’ll need all the help they can get.’

Good luck and happy spending. Just don’t lose sight of your child in the mission to maximise utility. Jeremy Walker, principal of King’s Rochester, warns: ‘In the quest for the right education, we mustn’t forget there are little human beings in all this, with friendship groups, relationships with teachers and the genuine need for continuity of education.’

Why you should spend most on fees for pre-prep schools

Why you should spend most on fees for prep schools

Why you should spend most on your 11-16 year old

Why you should spend most on your 16-18 year old

Janette Wallis is a senior editor of The Good Schools Guide

* See the best pre-prep schools in London

* See the best pre-prep schools outside of London

* See the best schools in the UK