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 a year.

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, 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, 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