Sector Info

Independent schools provide excellence, capacity, and innovation in our education system.

Parents will choose independent schools for some or all of their child’s education, sometimes to meet particular needs – for example, independent schools that specialise in supporting children who have special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).

There is not a single type of independent school. The ISC represents over 1,400 schools with real diversity of provision. ISC schools vary significantly in size from having fewer than 50 pupils to nearly 2,500, although half of all schools have fewer than 290 pupils. Over half of schools are non-selective and 74% are not for-profit. Almost 19% of pupils at ISC schools have SEND.

Independent schools provide:

Educational excellence

Particularly in STEM subjects that are crucial to future productivity; and languages post-Brexit.


Recent reforms of GCSEs and A-levels were based on qualifications taken at independent schools including IGCSEs and the Pre-U, and many of the structures and traditions of the independent sector have been adopted by state schools to improve pupils’ education.

Economic value

In 2021, schools affiliated to the Independent Schools Council (ISC) contributed £14.1bn to the UK economy, supported around 282,000 jobs and supported £4.3bn in tax revenues for the UK exchequer. The total economic footprint of all independent schools across the UK is estimated to have been £16.5bn, associated with 328,000 jobs and £5.1bn in tax revenues.

Taxpayer savings

Independent schools save the taxpayer £4.4bn per year through parents (who pay taxes to support state education) not taking up state school places. The ISC schools' share of that total is £3.8bn.

Overseas value

The sector contributes £1.05bn annually to education exports, is respected across the world and is attractive to overseas companies re-locating families to the UK. The Government’s International education strategy wants to increase number of overseas students – ISC schools attract nearly 62,000 non-British pupils and are a pipeline to higher education for international pupils.


Before COVID, 85% of ISC member schools had partnerships with their state counterparts. Almost 8,800 partnership projects were recorded in the calendar year 2022, which include supporting pupils with university applications, careers advice and providing teaching in shortage subjects such as modern foreign languages.


The ISC Census 2023 shows schools currently provide £483m in means-tested bursaries and scholarships – a 4.1% increase on last year.

Specialist provision

The sector provides specialist provision in music and dance, single-sex schools, boarding and SEND support.