Single mother forced to pay fees for school son did not attend (From East London and West Essex Guardian Series)
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Single mother forced to pay fees for school her son did not attend
A wealthy private school forced a single mother to pay thousands of pounds in fees despite her son never attending classes.
Professor Cathy McIlwaine, of Godwin Road in Wanstead, informed Forest School in Snaresbrook, that her son Max would not be able to take up a place three months before he was due to start in September.
Due to ongoing, costly divorce proceedings she could no longer afford the fees of nearly £15,000 a year.
But the school insisted Prof McIlwane must still pay £4,827 in fees for one term, in line with its published policy, despite giving notice well in advance of the start of the school year.
After writing to the school to explain her circumstances, Prof McIlwane was told earlier this month that she must still pay the fees or face legal action.
But the school then reduced the amount owed to £2,313 without explanation, which was paid for fear of further legal issues.
However, Prof. McIlwaine believes the school acted in a “callous” way over the issue.
She said: “I find it extraordinary that a school which prides itself on its reputation could respond to financially straightened circumstances in such a callous manner.
“I was under the impression that the school’s policy was in relation to a child who is already attending the school and does not apply to a child who they could easily find a replacement for before term started.
“Given the charitable status of the school, it is surprising that they obviously put financial matters before the educational needs of the children who attend or will attend.
“I spoke to my solicitor who informed me that I would not win an appeal against a school like this. She informed me that she has seen this kind of behaviour so many times before and it is common practice for them to fine parents heavily in this way.”
The high-achieving school recently opened a new £2million building with state-of-the-art learning resources and space for a range of educational activities.
A spokesman from Forest School said: “The school feels it would be inappropriate to comment on individual circumstances such as this.”
Prof. McIlwaine's son is now attending a state school in Redbridge.
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