The first week of September often fills parents full of financial horror, as children en masse begin nursery, primary school, secondary school, sixth form college or university.

The big question is how to pay for it?

Degree courses remain popular with school leavers, but the cost of going for today’s students is staggering. Universities can charge UK students up to £9,250 per year, which means the average three-year course will set the student, or their family, back £27,750.

If you were to educate your children at private school, the news is not good either.

In its most recent annual census the Independent Schools Council (ISC), which accounts for about 50% of all independent schools and 80% of UK independent school pupils, revealed an average yearly rise last year of 3.7%, the sharpest rise since 2014, but with big regional differences. In London, fees tend to be about 8% to 15% higher, with an average increase last year of 4.1% and most prestigious public schools often charge in excess of £40,000 per annum for boarders.

Based on the ISC data, leading financial planning group Tilney estimates that for a child born this year, whose parents intend for them to go to independent day schools from nursery at age 3, followed by prep school and then board at a senior school from age 11-18, the average total nominal cost of their education will be £534,702. This assumes an annual average school fee inflation rate of 3.7%.

“You should start saving for your child as early as possible and from the point in which you can afford to do so. The earlier you start, the more they could have.”

Sam Jennings financial planner and founder of Jennings & Co says: “Two of the best ways to save for your children and give them a head start in life would be either a Junior ISA (JISA) or a pension. The JISA can be accessed at the age of 18, which could help them use towards costs such as a house deposit or university fees.

“A pension on the other hand can’t be accessed until the age of 55 but it means they will potentially have a larger lump sum to help them throughout their retirement. You should start saving for your child as early as possible and from the point in which you can afford to do so. The earlier you start, the more they could have.”

Investing for the short or long-term?

“Depending on the time-frame you have for investing for your child, would depend on whether the type of savings is cash based or has an element of stocks and shares to it. If you have at least five years, but ideally longer, you should be looking at a stocks and shares type investment fund as although it will fluctuate in value, over the medium to long-term it has the potential to grow better than leaving money in cash. However, if you’re looking for short-term savings accounts, then cash would work better, as it won’t fluctuate in value,” says Jennings.

Jennings believes parents should go one step further and educate their children about money.

“It’s important that children have a full understanding of the value of money and the things they can have in life by having adequate savings, but also the risks of money and the importance of not getting into debt.”