26/11/2009 10:39 GMT | Updated 22/05/2015 06:12 BST

Dilemma Of The Day: Should We Pay For Our Son To Go To School?

Q: We recently inherited quite a lot of money and I want to use it to send our son to a private school. The local secondary hasn't got a very good reputation and I want to give him the best chance in life. My partner thinks we ought to save it to pay for university. We just can't agree.

A: If you don't have any savings in place, your partner might have a point about putting the cash away for your son's future. Of course, you may feel that an independent school education is an investment in itself.

Why not visit all the local schools, talk to the heads and the teachers, and see what you all think as a family. The reputation of the local secondary might not match your own feelings about the school.

Let your son have his say too. Pupils at independent schools often achieve higher grades, but is this the most important thing for him?

Is he keen to go to the local secondary? Where will his friends be going? Is your nearby independent school coeducational or would he be in a boys-only environment? What are the student teacher ratios? Are there similar opportunities to play sports in both school options? What about the role of religion in the schools, how do you feel about that?

Paying for private schooling can be a big financial commitment with costs varying from school to school. With the credit crunch affecting more and more people you should be sure that money won't become a problem later on, as moving schools can be an upheaval for children, especially in exam years.

There may be scholarships for gifted children at your local private school, or means tested bursaries could reduce the fees.

If you decide that you do want to save some of this money, you could still spend a portion on providing a wider education for your son by paying for additional music or sports classes. Or if he struggles with any particular subjects you could find a tutor to visit your home in the evenings or at weekends to give lessons.