ISC Census 2006: Independent sector numbers remain buoyant

Posted on: 09 May 2006

The independent schools sector continues to fight off the school-age demographic down-turn and pupil numbers in ISC schools show a slight increase this year.

Read the ISC Annual Census 2006

Commenting on the annual ISC census, published today, the most authoritative source of statistical information about accredited independent schools in the UK, General Secretary Jonathan Shephard said:

"The sector is now educating more children than at the peak of the Assisted Places Scheme in 1998 when it helped the parents of 40,331 pupils.

"Had ISC schools followed the national trend over the last few years they would have 22,395 fewer pupils than is actually the case. Since 2001, there has been a fall of 103,173 (1.4%) in the total number of school pupils in England and Scotland but in ISC schools the number of pupils has gone up by 13,508 (2.7%) over the same period. The health of the sector is a reflection of the parental demand for the broad curriculum, small class sizes, excellent teaching, extra-curricular activities and added value that the independent sector provides."

The 2006 ISC census shows that:

  • Overall pupil numbers in ISC schools have increased slightly to 505,450 (from 504,141 last year) attending 1,270 schools belonging to the 5 Heads' associations within the Independent Schools Council. 1,054 (83%) of those schools have charitable status.
  • Average class sizes are smaller than ever, with 9.87 children per teacher. This reflects the importance to parents of low class sizes and ISC schools' determination to continue to offer the widest range of subjects which will include so-called ‘uneconomic' subjects.
  • Independently educated students continue to enter higher education in record numbers. A total of 93.1% of sixth form leavers went on to higher education. Independent school recruitment at Sixth Form level remains healthy - numbers are up by 1.4% - reflecting parents' continuing faith in the independent sector as a passport to higher education.
  • ISC schools now educate 68,409 boarders and 437,041 day pupils. There are 757 ISC day schools and 32 schools where more than 90% of pupils board. The remainder are ‘mixed' day/boarding schools. Increasingly flexible arrangements have enabled boarding numbers to stabilise. ISC schools have seen a 0.2% rise in boarding numbers this year as more overseas pupils opt for a UK education.
  • There are 134 all-boy schools and 198 all-girl schools; eight fewer single-sex schools than a year earlier. The last decade has seen a very significant decrease in the number of boys-only schools and in those with a large majority of boys. The number of girls' schools, while it has diminished, has remained fairly steady in response to continuing demand from parents for that option.
  • This year has seen a rise of 870 (11%) in the number of overseas students. The numbers of German, French and Spanish pupils entering ISC schools have all increased by more than 25%. There have also been strong increases from Russia and other former Eastern Bloc countries while Hong Kong and China continue to provide large numbers of students at ISC schools.
  • Fee increases (based on the maximum fees charged by each school) averaged 5.7% in 2005/6. This is the lowest average rise recorded since 1999. Salaries are the largest items of expenditure, accounting for around two-thirds of a school's costs. This year's rise reflects costs such as utilities bills and insurance which have increased well above RPI. Fee increases have also financed the further fall in the teacher:pupil ratio and a record £551m of spending on new and improved buildings and equipment.
  • The number of pupils who receive assistance with their fees has increased and now represents 32.4% of all pupils in ISC schools. 74% of this assistance comes from the schools themselves. The value of this help (£286m) is nearly three times the fiscal benefits derived from charitable status.


Notes to editors

Independent schools educate children at all levels of ability and from all social classes.

In a recent study, ISC analysed 345,000 pupils' home postcodes collected from 900 ISC member schools. That represents approximately 75% of the UK students in ISC schools. The analysis clearly indicated that there is a sizable population within the independent sector whose parents live in postcodes where the average income is below the national average (43,000 children or 9.3% of the total). Of these 10,000 live in areas described as ‘hard-pressed'. It is likely that most of the pupils within these groups receive considerable financial support from their schools or other charitable organisations.

There is, in addition, another sizable population who live in areas where the average income is approximately equivalent to the national average (66,700 children or 14.5% of the total). It is likely that most of the pupils within these groups have parents who receive some financial support from their schools and make up the rest by sacrificing other expenditure.

Read the ISC Annual Census 2006