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More parents than ever favour independent education

12 November 2012

More parents than ever would choose to educate their child at an independent school if they could afford it, according to research published today.

The Populus survey of 2,057 adults commissioned by the Independent Schools Council (ISC) found that nearly six out of ten (57 per cent) of parents would send their child to an independent school if they could afford to. Only 25 per cent would not. This is the highest favourable response in the survey’s history: in 2002, 48 per cent said they would and 42 per cent said they would not.

Unprompted, better standards of education remains the key reason parents would opt for the independent sector (51 per cent).

7 in 10 of all adults agree that independent schools provide good university and employment prospects for pupils as well as giving them opportunities to fulfil their potential.

The public strongly believe that independent schools have higher educational standards than state schools (59 per cent), with only 6 per cent believing they are lower and 23 per cent saying they are about the same. The view that independent schools offer a higher standard of education has been growing stronger over the past decade from 49 per cent in 2002 to 59 per cent in 2012; by contrast, the proportion believing independent school standards to be lower has hardly changed, falling from 9 per cent in 2002 to 6 per cent in 2012.

Rudolf Eliott Lockhart, Deputy General Secretary & Head of Research, Independent Schools Council, said:

“This survey shows that the public increasingly recognise the exceptional quality of education provided by independent schools. The strength of these schools lies in their ability and commitment to offer a bespoke education to their pupils, giving them the very best start in life. That more parents than ever would like to send their children to an independent school is clearly reflected in the rise in pupil numbers in ISC schools this year.”

Public benefit

For the first time, this year’s survey presented questions on the public benefit work of independent schools.

When asked about the different ways that schools can provide public benefit, the most popular options were bursaries and sporting partnerships.59 per cent agree offering bursaries is a good initiative (7 per cent disagree) and 58 per cent support sharing sports facilities and holding joint sporting events (7 per cent disagree).

These findings correlate with the most common public benefit activities of independent schools in 2012 as identified in the ISC annual Census: 90 per cent of ISC schools in England that are charities currently offer bursaries to lower income families (a total value of £280 million), and 70 percent share their sporting facilities and events with state schools.

As in 2011, the Populus survey showed that half (51 per cent) the British public would support the use of government funds to enable children from lower income families to attend independent schools, more than twice the proportion who would oppose such funding (21 per cent).

Commenting on these new findings, Rudolf Eliott Lockhart, Deputy General Secretary & Head of Research, Independent Schools Council, said:

“This research shows that people recognise independent schools’ public benefit work can take many forms. We have a diverse mix of independent schools in this country and the ways in which they contribute to their local communities and support wider access to education are equally diverse. It is encouraging to see ISC schools are investing their skills and resources to provide opportunities in ways which people consider most valuable.”

Opinions on other areas of public benefit work which the public see as being a good way for independent schools to engage are to:

  • Help prepare state school A-level pupils for entry to university (55 per cent agree, 10 per cent disagree)
  • Work with local schools to share lessons, knowledge and skills (53 per cent agree, 10 per cent disagree)
  • Work with schools in poorer parts of the world to help them and their pupils (42 per, 16 per cent disagree)
  • Sponsor academies or free schools (41 per cent agree, 13 per cent disagree)
  • Second their teachers to work part time in state schools (34 per cent agree, 19 per cent disagree)

For more data from the survey, please see the attached PDF.

Notes to editors:

Attitudes towards independent schools survey

The survey of attitudes to the independent schools sector was carried out by Populus and commissioned by ISC. Populus interviewed 2,057 adults in Great Britain for the survey between 12 – 14 September 2012.

Data was weighted by Populus to be representative of all GB adults in terms of gender, age, SEG and region. The survey was carried out using an online format.

Questions on the charitable work of the independent sector were new to this year’s survey.

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