Some of the UK’s most eminent private schools have refused to reduce tuition fees while also applying for public funds that would be used to pay staff salaries.

Elite institutions including Westminster, Dulwich and St Paul’s in London have resisted demands from parents to lower fees for the coming term at a time when all schools are closed and teaching is being carried out online due to measures enforced in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Parents with children enrolled at these private schools and others are incensed because some schools that have refused to reduce tuition fees have also applied for taxpayer-funded grants to cover the salaries of furloughed staff.

They argue that the annual fees they pay – which can be as high as £40,000 – cover schools’ operating costs, including staff salaries, under normal circumstances, and should thus be sufficient at a time when all learning takes place online and amenities and extra-curricular activities are off the cards.

According to the Financial Times, a group of 50 parents with children at Westminster, which has offered only boarders a fee reduction of 28%, have written to the school’s governors calling for a cut to fees for all students, funded by its reserves.

One parent likened Westminster to Liverpool Football Club, which despite being bankrolled by a multi-billion-pound owner has applied for public funding. “They are applying for taxpayers’ money to fund salaries yet our school fees that are still being collected would normally be sufficient to cover these. This does not sit well with myself or other parents,” the parent said.

But Patrick Derham, headmaster of Westminster, which is classed as a chairty and reported income of £30.2 million in 2018, has said that his school will credit parents at the end of the summer term once any cost savings have been calculated.

Dulwich will look to do the same, according to headmaster Joe Spence, who said that his school is exploring additional support for families that have been financially impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.  

The chairman of governors of St Paul’s, which is continuing to charge full fees while waiving boarding charges, said in a letter to parents: “I do commit to handing the savings back to parents when the position is clear. We expect to achieve at least a 10% rebate on fees and will inform you before the end of the summer term.”

Some schools are reportedly trying to delay development projects in a bid to save money.