ISC 2015 Manifesto Independent Schools: don’t you know who we are?

Posted on: 04 Feb 2015

It is time to reset the relationship with independent schools in the UK.

For too long, independent schools have been defined by outdated stereotypes and ill informed preconceptions.

Three years ago Sir Michael Wilshaw, Chief Inspector of Schools, said there was a ‘Berlin Wall’ between the two sectors. The idea, if not the fact, has persisted. But these ill judged statements are unhelpful for everyone and prevent independent schools from contributing all that they could do and should do to benefit the education of all children in this country.

Independent schools stand ready to reset the relationship; they want to be seen for what they really are. They want to remove these counterproductive barriers that benefit no-one. Launching the 2015 Manifesto, the Independent Schools Council (ISC) states that ‘the mission of all schools, whether state or independent, is to educate children to achieve their full potential. Any barriers real or perceived between the two sectors are counterproductive’.

These barriers are so often reinforced by the Government’s and other organisations’ unrelenting focus on ‘school type’, particularly when it comes to publishing data, and yet the same analysis is rarely carried out for state-funded and often highly-selective grammar schools. The ISC Manifesto 2015 is a clear statement of the aims, priorities and beliefs of independent schools, but only by resetting the relationship can these hopes for the future ever be truly achieved.

Barnaby Lenon, Chairman, ISC said:

“The use of ‘school type’ as a proxy for wealth is endemic within Government and in other organisations. It is meaningless, a lazy stereotype that helps no one. There are disadvantaged children at our schools and there are advantaged children in the state sector. We should focus on the individual not the institution and use contextual information about each child.”

Charlotte Vere, Acting General Secretary ISC said:

“It is time to reset the relationship with independent schools in the UK. It is time to throw out old fashioned prejudices about independent schools and bring the debate up to date. Politicians and quangocrats need to stop talking about, and indeed sometimes creating, ‘Berlin Walls’. Old fashioned stereotypes about toffs and top hats help no one. Independent schools are not one trick, very posh, ponies.

“This is 2015 after all and our schools are very diverse, with an extraordinary mix of pupils. Many independent schools are small and best known by their local communities. Over 55% of our schools have fewer than 350 pupils, many of whom are from families where both parents work extremely hard so that they can choose an independent education for their children.”

Independent schools have much to offer the education sector and their ideas, culture and ethos are continually being adopted to benefit all children in this country:

Independent schools have been at the forefront of the development of curricula and exams, including the international GCSE and the International Baccalaureate as well as the Extended Project Qualification and the Pre-U Independent schools have been actively involved in the consultations about the reforms to A-levels and consistently press for higher quality exam marking Independent schools have included ‘character education’ for decades, if not generations, believing that educating the whole child is as important as exam results Independent schools have always offered extensive extra-curricular activities in music, drama, sport, Duke of Edinburgh awards, Combined Cadet Force etc. and have nurtured some of this country’s most capable and well-known sportspeople, actors and musicians

Charlotte Vere said:

“Independent schools have a lot to offer the education of all children in this country and are keen to do more by working with state schools by sharing best practice and ideas in vibrant and meaningful partnerships which meet a local need.

“Independent schools already educate over 41,000 children on bursary places and over 5,300 pupils at ISC schools pay no fees at all. These opportunities are potentially life changing and our schools are keen to extend their reach.”

Did you know?

55% of our schools have fewer than 350 pupils Half of independent schools educate children under 13 Nearly 87% of pupils are day pupils Nearly 29% of pupils are from a minority ethnic background Just 5% of pupils are international students with parents living overseas 41,099 pupils, or 8% of the total, receive means-tested fee assistance at an average of £7,894 per pupil and a total cost of nearly £330 million per year 66,579 pupils at our schools, or well over 10%, have Special Educational Needs In 2012, 30% of students with a full Oxford University bursary were educated in the independent sector.

The ISC Manifesto 2015 further states our commitment to:

Independence: the strength of ISC schools stems from our independence, from both central government and local authorities. This leads to excellence and innovation. Partnerships: between independent and state schools will continue to increase and will be quantified and published. New partnerships will be initiated based on local need, not national diktat. Quality assessment: ISC schools are free to choose their exams and devise their own curricular and accountability measures. Government must take a step back for the time being and there should be no further significant reforms. Teacher Training: pupils in ISC schools can expect to be taught by someone with a good degree in the subject they are teaching. ISC schools retain the freedom to employ staff who do not have QTS. International reach: ISC schools continue to foster a lifelong bond to our nation. ISC schools are recognised as high quality providers and regulations around overseas pupils seeking an education at an ISC school in the UK should be appropriate.

Read the ISC 2015 Manifesto.

Notes to editors

About ISC schools The Independent Schools Council (ISC) brings together eight associations of independent schools, their heads, bursars and governors. Through our member associations we represent over 1,250 independent schools in the UK and overseas.

These schools are ranked among the best in the world and educate more than half a million children each year. ISC schools in Britain contribute £9.5 billion to the economy, slightly larger than the City of Liverpool or the BBC. ISC schools generate £3.6 billion in tax, save the taxpayer £3.0 billion by providing education outside the state system and support 227,200 people in employment.

Our eight member associations are the Girls’ Schools Association, the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference, the Independent Association of Prep Schools, the Independent Schools Association, the Society of Heads, the Association of Governing Bodies of Independent Schools, the Independent Schools’ Bursars Association and the Council of British International Schools.

For all enquiries, please contact: Tracy Cook, Head of Press, ISC Tel: 020 7766 7060 Out of hours: 07825 806017 Email: