ISC - Addressing common myths about independent schools

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Addressing common myths about independent schools

Assumptions about independent schools are far too often based on outdated stereotypes. Our sector is very different from the common portrayal, which tends to present schools as inhabiting sprawling estates, with pupils who dress in top hats and tails. In reality independent schools are diverse and more accessible than you might think. So, it’s time to bust some myths and common misconceptions…

MYTH: All independent schools are large old-fashioned boarding schools Fact: 87% of pupils at our schools are day pupils. There are 476 schools that offer some boarding and just 12 ISC schools that are 100% boarding. The ISC represents over 1,300 schools with real diversity of provision. ISC schools vary significantly in size from having fewer than 50 pupils to over 2,400, although half of all schools have fewer than 300 pupils. Over 15% of pupils at ISC schools have special educational needs and disabilities (SEND). We have a wide range of schools in our membership including schools to support pupils specifically with SEND, music schools as well as drama, dance and sports-focussed schools. Specialist provision at independent schools means that our country’s education offering is broader and has greater capacity than it would otherwise.

MYTH: Independent school fees are about £40,000 a year Fact: The average day school fee is £14,500 a year – a lot of money, yes, but many hard-working families make tough financial choices in order to support their children in this way. And that is the average figure – nearly two thirds cost less than this and fees also vary by region. The numbers often quoted are for boarding schools where the total cost combines both tuition and boarding fees (which state boarding schools charge too). The vast majority of independent schools are small.

MYTH: Independent schools are full of children from rich families Fact: There is socio-economic diversity at independent schools. Many families make huge sacrifices in order to pay fees for their children to attend. Our schools are committed to further widening access. They do everything they can to offer help with fees, so children can access an independent school education whatever their background. Last year alone, one in 13 pupils was on a means-tested bursary, with schools providing more than ÂŁ420 million in means-tested fee assistance. Schools offer help with fees because having a broad social mix that reflects our society is very important.

MYTH: Independent schools are being kept afloat by international students Fact: There are 29,000 non-British pupils at ISC schools whose parents live overseas – that’s about 5% of the total pupil number. We welcome international students. They bring a global perspective, enrich the school community and improve the international community’s view of the UK. They are also a vital pipeline for British universities. Research shows that these non-British pupils account for £1.26 billion of GDP and support £390 million of tax revenue per year.

MYTH: Independent schools have few ethnic minority pupils Fact: Our annual census shows 33.8% of pupils at ISC schools in England are from ethnic minorities. Data from the Department for Education shows a similar pattern for state schools – where 32.2% of pupils are from ethnic minorities. You can read our census, as well as all of the other research reports and information about the independent schools sector at

MYTH: Independent schools are all highly selective Fact: Only half of our schools are academically selective. Independent schools place great value on providing a broad all-round education, including learning opportunities outside the classroom and outstanding pastoral care. Helping to develop soft skills is hugely important, and we know from independent research that pupils at our schools are confident and like a challenge. Independent schools are well known for delivering character education and supporting wellbeing.

MYTH: Independent schools don’t contribute to the country Fact: Independent schools put into society far more than they take out. They save the taxpayer £3.5 billion each year through the education of children and young people outside of state schools. Across the UK’s independent schools sector, schools contribute in the region of £13.7 billion to the economy and generate £4.1 billion in tax annually, as well as supporting 303,000 jobs.

84% of ISC schools work in partnership with state schools on a wide range of educational projects, which unlock new teaching and learning experiences for those involved.

Constituent Associations Girls’ Schools Association Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference Independent Association of Prep Schools Independent Schools Association The Society of Heads Association of Governing Bodies of Independent Schools The Independent Schools’ Bursars Association Affiliated Associations Boarding Schools’ Association Council of British International Schools Scottish Council of Independent Schools Welsh Independent Schools Council Independent Schools Council First Floor, 27 Queen Anne’s Gate, London SW1H 9BU 020 7766 7070 A Company Limited by Guarantee. Registered in England and Wales No. 1103760