Reform Scotland

Buying in the best catchment areas can be more expensive than sending kids to private school

Private or state, parents pay to access good schools

New research by the independent think tank Reform Scotland shows that buying a house in the catchment areas of the best performing Scottish state schools can cost more than sending children to a private secondary school and living in a less expensive area. (see notes to editors for an example)

Reform Scotland believes that this highlights the reality of parents paying for their children’s education, over and above their contributions to general taxation.  Whether directly, through private school fees, or indirectly through buying a house in a top catchment area, they are trying to buy good results.

However, there are many families who are unable to pay either of these additional premiums, and they are therefore left with very little choice but to have their children educated in schools with poorer academic results.

The full briefing can be downloaded below.

Keir Bloomer, the Chairman of the Commission on School Reform and a Reform Scotland Advisory Board member, said:

“Scottish education remains highly inequitable.

“This is not about ‘good schools’ and ‘bad schools’ but about our failure to tackle disadvantage effectively.

“Until effective action is taken, parents will quite naturally try to buy educational success.”

The Commission on School Reform’s final report By Diverse Means: Improving Scottish Education, recommended the following:

“The allocation of support for pupils and schools experiencing disadvantage should be reviewed and needs to be better targeted. More of the available support should follow the individual disadvantaged learner”.

Furthermore, Reform Scotland’s 2009 report Parent Power recommended a series of measures aimed at better schooling for the most disadvantaged, including:

  • more parental choice over schools
  • supplements for disadvantaged children
  • allowing new schools to be set up



  1. Reform Scotland is an independent, non-party think tank that aims to set out a better way to deliver increased economic prosperity and more effective public services based on the traditional Scottish principles of limited government, diversity and personal responsibility. Further information is available at

    2. The average house price paid in Edinburgh over the past three years was £225,931 according to Zoopla. The average house price in the postcode area of Boroughmuir was £327,313 – a difference of £101,382. Borrowing this amount over a 25-year period at a competitive interest rate of 1.99% costs around £127,000, according to the calculator on

    School fees at George Heriot’s, George Watson’s and Erskine Stewart’s Melville are all around £10,000 a year, meaning the cost of educating two children for six years of secondary school is about £123,000, assuming fees increase by about 1% a year.

    Therefore, it is cheaper to send two children to private school than buy a house in the catchment area of the best performing school in the city.

    3. Media enquiries to Andy Maciver 07855 261244 or