Debt Recovery Service

Wilsons’ Education team has advised independent schools for many years. We understand that schools often face a wide range of legal and practical issues in relation to the recovery of school fees. Our experienced team offers expert, pragmatic and commercially focused legal support.

How we can help…

Our specialist team can work with you to recover unpaid school fees and will guide you through the options at each stage of the debt recovery process.

Parents enter into a contract with an independent school for the provision of education services to their child in return for the payment of school fees. The majority of parents abide by the terms of this agreement but, for various reasons, some do not. We can review each matter at the outset and give our view on whether it is a straightforward or more complex case.

The process

We can assist schools at all stages of a debt recovery matter:

  1. The first stage is usually to write a letter before action to the debtor, which adheres to the Pre-Action Protocol for Debt Claims.  In many cases, this will be sufficient to recover payment from the parent in question, who will be concerned by the prospect of having to defend legal proceedings if they do not pay. It can also flush out a debtor's arguments for non-payment if these have not been forthcoming.
  2. We can then advise the school on the parent's response (if any) to the letter before action, whether that be to pay immediately, to dispute the debt or to ignore the letter completely.
  3. In rare instances, the School will sometimes have little option but to issue legal proceedings to recover the debt. We can prepare the necessary documents and issue the claim, or simply provide ad-hoc advice if you decide to issue the claim yourself.
  4. We will then advise on the parent's response to the claim, whether they admit the debt, file a defence or to not respond at all.
  5. If the claim is successful, we can advise on the various enforcement methods for recovering the debt, including taking a charge over their property, deducting the outstanding amount from the parents' salary through PAYE, or agreeing some instalment plan with the parent.


Our costs for preparing and serving the initial letter before claim: £675 - £900 plus VAT.

The costs thereafter will vary depending on how far through the process the school needs to go before recovering payment or deciding not to pursue the matter further. 

At each stage, we will provide you with an update on costs, and advise you of the cost efficiency of proceeding to the next stage in view of the value of the outstanding fees.

To avoid issues arising around non-payment, we advise our schools clients to ensure that the terms of their Parent/School Contract are as clear as possible about when fees will be payable and issues relating to fees in lieu of notice. Our Education team can also assist with re-drafting this suite of documentation, as required.

In the event of non-payment of fees, schools should have a rigorous enforcement policy to recover them.

Principal contacts

For further information or an initial discussion, please contact Jenifer Martindale or Vicky Wilson