Non-payment of fees - what steps should schools take?

Sam King
Sam King

Published: March 15th, 2024

7 min read

As an independent school, there is an inherent risk that parents may not pay fees that they have agreed to pay. This could be down to a multitude of factors. Below are set out steps to take to ensure that any non-payment is picked up expeditiously.

Process

The first step would be to have a thorough credit control process that monitors when payments have been made, and when they have become overdue. Non-payment will require prompt action to rectify, and it is important that a credit control team keeps on top of this. It is also important to keep track of any patterns of non-payment from a particular parent.

Make contact

The next step would be to contact the parent to outline that payment has not been received and ask for payment promptly. This may then lead to the parent outlining a reason for why a payment has been missed. It may be that a parent has fallen under financial difficulty. Another reason could be that the parent may have a complaint about the school - in which case, you direct the parent to the school policy. It is vital that non-payment of fees is an issue that is not conflated with any complaints. You must keep the parent's complaints and non-payment of fees as separate issues.

Come to an agreement

Depending on what the reason is for non-payment, it would be prudent to agree a payment plan with the parent (for example, if they are financially struggling). This payment plan needs to be in writing (for reasons that will be made clear below) and it also needs to be kept on top of and reviewed.

Send a Letter Before Acton

If the above steps have been exhausted, the next steps may need to be legal action and instructed a solicitor to send a letter before action. A Letter Before Action, to be compliant with the court's requirements, needs to contain the following:

  • Concise details of the claim including the basis on which a claim is made, a summary of the facts, the payment you want from the debtor, and how that amount is calculated.
  • Key documents in relation to the claim (which makes it important that any payment plan is recorded in writing);
  • A deadline for the debtor to respond that is reasonable dependant on the facts (this will likely be between 1430 days).

Often times, a letter from a solicitor will prompt a response from a debtor and it may be the case that a deal can be reached without the need to issue any legal proceedings. However, if this approach does not work, you may have no other alternative than to issue proceedings at court for the amount due. Before you issue proceedings, it is vital to seek legal advice to assess prospects of recoverability and the costs involved.

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