How we’re helping independent schools chase debts

When unpaid school fees run into thousands of pounds, independent school bursar Jonathan Wheeler can call on our services.

As a bursar in the independent school sector, Jonathan Wheeler oversees a range of school support services from finance and infrastructure to provision of catering and being clerk to the governors.

One of Jonathan’s responsibilities under finance is to chase up unpaid fees when requests to parents for payment go unanswered and the debt is accumulating.

It’s a task that is time-consuming but vital to any school’s ability to maintain its income – and most independent schools are charities, rather than businesses.

Thousands of pounds

Jonathan employs our services up to a dozen times a year to help with the cases where repeated letters, emails and phone calls have failed to budge the parents and the debt is running into thousands of pounds.

“You always get a number of challenging parents and you do need vehicles, beyond the bursar’s ability, that you can call on to secure for the school the funds to which it is entitled,” Jonathan says. “I’ve worked with Philip Elliott Associates on a number of occasions where I’ve been working as an interim/consultant bursar. They are a good vehicle to use to avoid the need to take straightforward cases to a lawyer with all the attendant difficulties and costs associated with that process.”

Deploying sensitivity

Philip and Robyn are also adept at listening to clients and understanding the particular needs of specific cases, as well as deploying sensitivity where necessary, Jonathan says, adding that, as a long-standing bursar, he has encountered a range of providers for debt recovery.

“A number of them either sell you something then don’t deliver what they promise or they fail to recognise that some situations need more subtle handling,” he says. “I’m very happy with Philip Elliott Associates as they do get the tone and approach right on both sides.”

In a number of cases Jonathan needs Philip and Robyn to take a very robust line.

“Sometimes I’ve only engaged them at the end of a very difficult process and I’ve already become frustrated with the parents in question, so I’m very happy for them to be very firm on our behalf in recovering the money,” he says. “There are others where I want them to exercise a degree more discretion and to be gentler in their approach and they are good at engaging with me as the client to determine the nature of the approach they will take on individual cases.

“So it’s not a one-size-fits-all, it’s a tailored approach. They are conscious that they are acting on our behalf, so they have a sensitivity to the school’s reputation.”

Strong track record

And Philip Elliott Associates’ track record speaks for itself, he adds.

“I’ve been very happy with what they have achieved over a number of different cases of different kinds. The level of debts I put to them are anything between £1,000 and £30,000 and they are efficient and effective in debt collection in these challenging scenarios.”