PARENTS whose children go to Scottish private schools are facing fee rises of up to five per cent, new figures show.

In the week schools in the independent sector open their gates to pupils a survey by The Herald shows fees will increase by an average of 3.3 per cent in 2017/18.

Over the past seven years fees have risen by more than 27 per cent, with the average annual cost to families climbing from £11,410 in 2010/11 to its current figure of £14,574.

This month the consumer price index, the Government’s preferred measure of inflation, was running at 2.6 per cent while the retail price index has jumped to 3.6 per cent.

The most expensive independent school in Scotland for senior school day pupils is Fettes College, in Edinburgh, which increased its fees by nearly five per cent and now charges £26,790 for a day pupils. Boarding fees at the school, whose former pupils include Tony Blair, are more than £33,000 a year.

The second most expensive school is Gordonstoun, in Moray, where Prince Charles was educated, which is charging £24,855 a year for a senior school day pupil. Boarding fees at the school are more than £30,000 per pupil.

Fees at Merchiston Castle School, in Edinburgh, are the third-highest in our survey, at £23,505 after a 3.5 per cent rise.

In the Glasgow area, fees were highest at Belmont House School, in Newton Mearns, East Renfrewshire, where the annual cost is now £12,606 after a 3.49 per cent rise.

The cost of schooling at big Glasgow schools such as Glasgow High School, Glasgow Academy and Hutchesons’ Grammar School is between £11,500 and £12,000.

The fee rises come at a time when the cost of a private education is increasingly under the spotlight following the economic downturn and a drop in pupil numbers.

In December figures showed pupil numbers at Scottish private schools reached their lowest level for nearly thirty years.

Numbers have dropped 7.5 per cent from a high of 32,065 in 2007 to a low of 29,647 in 2016.

The biggest decline has been in primary where numbers have fallen more than 10 per cent since 2007.

Overall, 4.1 per cent of children in Scotland attend a private school in membership of the Scottish Council of Independent Schools (SCIS).

A report by the Bank of Scotland – published before the impact of the credit crunch – warned that members of key Scottish professions were already being priced out of sending their children to fee-paying schools, with teachers, engineers and police officers no longer able to afford a private education.

One school that has frozen its fees this year is Glenalmond in Perth and Kinross where the annual cost remains at £21,945.

Elaine Logan, the school’s warden said: “We recognise that affordability is a challenge for parents and we are particularly aware of the impact of economic uncertainty.

“This is perhaps reflected in a record number of applicants for assisted places and we will be providing approximately £2 million in means tested bursaries in the coming academic year.

“Freezing fees for day pupils means that Glenalmond is a viable option for local families.”

John Edward, director of SCIS, said all schools worked hard to keep fee increases to a minimum, but stressed there were a number of extra costs.

He said: “Independent schools in Scotland are sensitive to the sacrifices that many parents make in order to afford school fees.

“As a result they strive to do their utmost to deliver the best for their children and young people in a climate where fixed costs like salaries, pensions and utilities are going up all the time along with the political uncertainty that Brexit brings.

“The figures represent responsible management by the independent sector.”

Mr Edward also highlighted the fact that Scottish private schools have spent millions of pounds on extra bursaries for pupils from poorer backgrounds in recent years.

In 2016/17 Scotland’s independent schools provided a record number of children with financial help with levels of support rising to over £49m, up £2m on the previous year’s total.

School 2016/17 2017/18 % increase

Fettes, Edinburgh 25,545 26,790 4.87

Gordonstoun, Elgin 24,189 24,855 2.75

Merchiston Castle, Edinburgh 22,710 23,505 3.5

Loretto, Edinburgh 21,750 22,875 5.1

Glenalmond, Perth 21,954 21,945 0

Strathallan, Perth 21,114 21,747 2.99

Lathallan, Montrose 17,670 18,201 3

Kilgraston, Perthshire 16,470 16,965 3

Edinburgh Academy 13,248 13,752 3.8

St Leonards, Fife 13,137 13,596 3.49

St George’s, Edinburgh 12,960 13,410 3.47

Albyn, Aberdeen 12,730 13,175 3.49

Robert Gordon’s, Aberdeen 12,305 12,710 3.29

Morrison’s Academy, Crieff 12,300 12,669 3

Belmont House, Glasgow 12,180 12,606 3.49

St Margaret’s, Aberdeen 12,174 12,600 3.49

Dollar Academy 12,105 12,591 4.01

Beaconhurst, Stirling 12,042 12,525 4

Dundee High 12,063 12,498 3.6

Wellington, Ayr 12,060 12,450 3.23

Glasgow High 11,919 12,336 3.49

Kelvinside, Glasgow 11,880 12,240 3.03

Craigholme, Glasgow 12,135 12,201 0.54

George Heriot’s, Edinburgh 11,604 12,039 3.74

Glasgow Academy 11,787 12,023 2

George Watson’s, Edinburgh 11,577 11,901 2,79

St Aloysius’, Glasgow 11,214 11,871 5.85

Clifton Hall, Edinburgh 11,280 11,805 4.65

Hutchesons’, Glasgow 11,304 11,728 3.75

St Columba’s, Inverclyde 11,185 11,630 3.97

Lomond, Helensburgh 11,100 11,550 3.89

Mary Erskine, Edinburgh 10,917 11,298 3.48

Stewart’s Melville, Edinburgh 10,917 11,298 3.48

Hamilton College 9,855 10,140 2.89