We always aim to minimise fees increases (the last two years have been well below inflation and the lowest in a decade), but there is no getting away from the fact that 550,000/- per term is a lot of money.
Despite this we have very little ‘surplus’ at the end of each year, and what we do have is re-invested into buildings, equipment and materials for education. As a charitable trust, none of the school governors or directors receive any financial remuneration for their work.
SO WHERE DOES ALL THE MONEY GO?! This is a question that we are often asked and as a charitable trust, we think it is important we are more open about this. People understandably feel that with fees of 550,000/- per term per child, there must be some money building up somewhere, surely…
The answer is that running an international curriculum, full-boarding, prep-school to the standards we do is very expensive. For perspective, we need a minimum of 170 pupils just to break-even. Once you take into account bursaries, scholarships, sibling discounts and early payment discounts, this is how our costs breakdown:
1. Staff costs are 65% of income.
Pembroke has a long-standing commitment to small class sizes, and exceptional one-to-one support. This requires a sizable teaching staff given our 5:1 pupil to teacher ratio. Our pupil:teacher ratio is exceptional and we are not prepared to compromise it to save money. It is an ongoing challenge to bring in top-class teaching staff from the UK and worldwide and to provide them a remuneration that ensures continuity. There is no way of course we can compete with UK salaries, even then. We also have 80 support staff that take care of all the cooking, cleaning, and estates.
2. Food and drink costs are 11% of income
An army marches on its stomach as they say, and we see catering as a critical part of the operations of the school. With Pembroke children spending so much time outdoors, the calories are burnt up quickly and we ensure three square meals a day of high standard, as well as break twice a day and snacks in the evening. We are always checking our suppliers to find the best value for money, but with the Daily Nation reporting food inflation around 20%, this is always a tough item to manage.
3. Operations (e.g. Transport, Gas, Electricity, Water) are 11% of income
These are the unavoidable costs of simply operating a school. Included in here are Electricity, Water, Gas, Fuel for Vehicles, Cleaning products, Health and Safety and Fire Audits, Bank Interest and Charges, Financial Auditor fees, Licences, Insurances, Work Permits, Travel and Entertainment, Vehicle Running (we have three buses), Security, Telephone and Postage, Stationery and Internet. We have actually been able to reduce these items in the last three years through cost-cutting and controls despite inflation.
4. Investment in buildings, equipment and education materials are 10% of income
An 85 year-old school needs care and attention and this summer holidays we have had an army of people repairing, painting and improving everything. We invest in text books, excercise books, posters and other such educational materials and equipment. We invest in new equipment and facilities to ensure Pembroke remains at the cutting edge of education, not just in Kenya but worldwide. This includes for example computers, projectors, new classrooms, or as planned a new theatre facility.
5. Marketing and fundraising accounts for just 2% of income
We have to spend some money in these areas. Whilst Pembroke is an exceptional school, we still need to get out there and ensure the widest possible group of potential parents are aware of that. Over the last year, our marketing has helped us sign-up an additional 30 children to the school. Without those 30 children we would not have been able to do any of the infrastructure or staff investments we have made and we would have needed a much higher increase in school fees to make up for cost inflation.
So that leaves just 1% of our income left over. This we do put in the bank as a safeguard against a rainy day. This covers for example sudden inflation issues (a somewhat relevant issue today!), changes in pupil numbers or indeed any unforseen need for cash. It is the responsible thing to ensure a buffer.
At the end of the day, we work to ensure that the school fees are in-line with the exceptional service Pembroke provides. We benchmark ourselves wherever possible and appropriate with other schools in Kenya and the UK. In fact, when you take into account that Pembroke offers 7-days-a-week full time boarding, you could argue that our tuition fees are among the lowest of our peers in Kenya. We have certainly had the lowest fees increase this year.