Fight for your rights: “We’ve been waiting months for a refund of school fees”

27 March 2020

Moneywise columnist Hannah Nemeth helps a reader get a refund for their child’s school fees

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Choosing the right secondary school for your child can be stressful, but even more so when they suffer from mental health and behavioural issues.

KH’s stepdaughter enrolled at Ealing Independent College, but after two days the family were advised by her psychiatrist that she should no longer attend the school.

KH explains: “She suffers from ADHD, anxiety and depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Due to the short time she attended the college, through no fault of ours and following the psychiatrist’s advice, we asked the school for a refund of her school fees.”

Under the college’s terms and conditions, it was not obliged to offer a refund. However, the college did agree to waive half a term’s fees – £2,142 – as a goodwill gesture. 

This was at the beginning of October 2019, but when KH approached Moneywise on 14 January, she had heard nothing, despite following up with emails and a letter.

The couple were so irritated by the lack of response that they decided to up their claim to 68 days’ non-attendance, which they worked out at £4,891.

KH says that Social Services had advised them that they could be entitled to a full refund. “Having sent various emails, I doubt we will receive a full refund, but surely they should be honouring the goodwill gesture?”

I think it is a shame that in a case that involves the mental wellbeing of an ex-pupil that the college did not make the refund as promised or respond to KH.

Unfortunately, Moneywise’s two emails to the college were also ignored and when I phoned up, a member of staff said that, as the couple had now asked for an additional payment, head office would be dealing with it.

Ealing Independent College comes under the umbrella of Bellevue Education, so I gave the company a call.

Bellevue was very apologetic, putting the delay down to company restructuring and “overstretched staff”. It paid a half-term’s refund of £2,142 by bank transfer the same day.

KH says: “Despite the college’s initial quick response, it then took an eternity to refund the money. Staff ignored emails, and a threat of the small claims court didn’t nudge them into action. They only responded once Moneywise got in touch.

“The college showed a great lack of empathy, which caused us unnecessary anxiety. 

“We are so grateful to Moneywise for its help. The refund can now be used to benefit our daughter with the much-needed help she requires.” 

A spokesperson for Ealing Independent College says: “Due to the particular circumstances of their daughter’s withdrawal from the college, we offered the family a 50% refund of the term’s fees.

“The refund was offered in good faith and also included a waiver of fees due in lieu of notice for spring, as agreed to by the family under the college’s terms and conditions. The delay of the refund is purely down to human error.

“We wish the family the very best and hope their daughter is doing well.”

OUTCOME: £2,142 refunded

Are you struggling to resolve a dispute with a company? We promise to do whatever it takes to get to the bottom of your problem. If you have been treated unfairly by a firm or are owed compensation for shoddy service, send your complaint to Moneywise’s Fight for Your Rights and we will take up the fight for you.

Write to us (including your name, address and phone number) at fightback@moneywise.co.uk. Due to the high volume of emails Fight for Your Rights receives, we cannot guarantee to answer every query personally.

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