ISC Census 2013: More pupils at ISC schools

The Independent Schools Council (ISC) has today published its Annual Census for 2013. The Census shows more pupils at ISC schools in 2013 than the previous year with 508,601 pupils now in 1,223 ISC schools.  

Further highlights of this year’s Census findings include:

Regional trends
Pupil numbers rose by 1.1% in Greater London (which has 16% of ISC schools and 16% of pupils). Numbers fell by 0.6% across other parts of theUK. This reflects regional economic trends as identified by recent analysis from the Office of National Statistics showing thatLondon continues to outperform the rest of theUK economically.

Fees and fee assistance
School fees have shown the lowest rise in almost 20 years (3.9%). The value of fee assistance has grown with a third of pupils receiving help (33.7%). ISC schools increased the value of means-tested bursaries by 6.7%, bringing the total annual fee assistance from schools to more than £620m. In real terms, this means almost 40,000 children are able to attend independent schools whose families would otherwise be unable to afford the fees.

Changing profile of independent schools

The profile of independent schools is changing in shape, size and ethnicity. Independent schools have been growing in size over the past 25 years. The average school is one third larger than in 1985. The proportion of minority ethnic pupils has grown from 22.8% in 2009 (when the data was first collected by ISC) to 26.1% in 2013.

Internationalisation of UK independent schools
The Census points to an increasing international pupil population in ISC schools, as well as a rise in those going to university abroad afterwards. Non-British pupils at ISC schools in 2013 is up 1.4% on 2012, while 38% of schools have reported an increase in the number of pupils going to university overseas. Of the 91% of ISC school pupils who progress to higher education, 3.4% of these chose to study outside theUK. These figures demonstrate the attraction of an education at ISC schools to a global market, reflecting findings from the OCED which recognisedUK independent schools as being among the best academic schools in the world.

Association representatives said of the Census findings today:

ISC Chairman, Barnaby Lenon:

“I am delighted that the numbers at independent schools have held up so well this year, despite the recession.  The fantastic GCSE, A-level, Pre-U and IB  results achieved by our pupils in 2012, combined with their medal success at the London Olympics, illustrate the reasons so many parents are keen for their children to come to our schools.”

Please also feel free to use as a quote from Barnaby Lenon any section of the foreword to the Census on page 2. 

BSA Chairman, Christian Heinrich:
The tiny fall in boarding numbers  in this year’s census may be seen as a triumph, as the recession continues to bite and in the context of very stable boarding numbers since the Millennium.  Indeed, while weekly boarding is attractive to many parents and pupils, the strength of the boarding market may be seen in the fact that new questions in this year’s census reveal that 83.5% of boarders are in fact full boarders. Long term investment by schools in their boarding accommodation – £88 million, a third up on last year’s £66 million – is clearly money well spent.  It is not surprising against this background that there are growing signs of interest in boarding from free schools and academies who wish to make the benefits of boarding available to even more children..”

GSA President, Hilary French:
“It’s encouraging that, despite the recession, parents continue to value independent education and it is heartening to see from the rise in bursary support and partnership projects that the sector plays a key role in the wider community. I am also encouraged, but not at all surprised, that 40% of ISC schools recognise the benefits of single sex teaching for pupils in years 7 to 11.”

HMC Chairman, Dr Christopher Ray:
“The resilience of independent schools throughout the country during a deep recession is particularly important.  HMC schools have strengthened their position remarkably well since 2007.  They will be an important contributor to the economic recovery. Meanwhile, our schools continue to diversify their social and ethnic intakes and this is assisted by the increasing scale of bursaries.  HMC schools are spread throughout the country and are internationally excellent.  An increasing range of families is investing in our schools and this bodes well for the longer-term development of the innovation and enterprise economy we need.”

IAPS Chairman, Nicholas Allen:
“The rise in pupil numbers at prep schools this year shows that parents realise the importance of an excellent, well-rounded education right from the early years. This rise in such a difficult economic climate is a strong endorsement of preparatory schools across the country, which provide strong foundations for learning, excellent pastoral care and preparation for future success.”

ISA Chair, Emma Prentice:
“These remain difficult financial times for many parents and one to which our schools will react and respond sensitively. It is encouraging to read that an increased number of children are gaining access to an Independent Education through fee assistance, confirming that an Independent Education remains an aspiration for a large proportion of parents across the country.”

ISBA Chairman, Stephen Taylor:
“The figures reflect the resilience and flexibility of independent schools in the current economic context.  Schools are controlling expenditure and keeping fee increases as low as possible against a backdrop of rising costs.  The slight increase in capital spending may reflect some optimism for the future.”

The Society of Heads Chairman, David Boddy:
"British independent schools are clearly seen as amongst the best in the world and despite tough economic times, thousands of parents in Britain are still making provision of the best education a top priority for family expenditure. Significant numbers of Society of Heads schools are helping extend that provision still further by generous bursary contributions. The independent sector needs to be seen as a real partner in this country's educational provision. It is time for Government to consider more imaginative options to extend that partnership to help many more deserving children, not just those from families who can afford it."


Press enquiries
For more information please contact Julie Pitcher, (Acting) Head of Press, Independent Schools Council, on 0207 766 7062 or at [email protected]. For urgent enquiries out of hours please call the press mobile on 07825 806017.

Notes to editors

Independent Schools Council
The Independent Schools Council (ISC) brings together eight associations of independent schools, their heads, bursars and governors. These collectively represent over 1,200 independent schools in the UK and overseas, educating more than half a million children each year. For more information about ISC, please visit the website:

If you would like an electronic copy of the 2013 Census, further comment from any of the association representatives quoted above or any further information, please do not hesitate to contact ISC’s Press Office.

ISC Annual Census 2013
The 2013 Census includes data on all 1,223 schools in UK membership of the constituent associations of ISC. These schools comprise 1,157 schools in England; 33 in Scotland; 15 in Wales; 11 in Northern Ireland; 5 in the Channel Islands; and 2 in the Isle of Man.

Data is presented in two appendices: Appendix One gives a snapshot of ISC schools as they were in January 2013. Appendix Two shows comparative figures for the schools that completed the Census in both 2012 and 2013 and is therefore the best guide for annual change.

Previous years’ versions of the ISC Census can be found on the website: