The recovering economy has seen demand rise for fee-paying private schools in Birmingham as parents feel more flushed with cash, a headteacher has revealed.
John Claughton, chief master at the £11,500-a-year King Edwards School in Edgbaston, said independent schools in Birmingham had to fight hard to survive after the recession but were now seeing pupil numbers increasing.
His comments came as the Independent Schools Council, which represents the majority of independent schools in the UK, has boasted that the number of pupils at its schools was now at the highest level it has been since records began in 1974 – up from 511,928 last year to 517,113 in 2015.
Mr Claughton added: “There are good reasons why the number of pupils in independent schools has increased - there is a very high regard for what they can offer and there are concerns about the pressures there are in the state sector.
“UK independent schools also have a great reputation around the world and more and more students are being attracted.
“And, of course, greater economic confidence is important: more parents have the funds to pay the fees.
“However, the figures are national figures and there is no doubt that independent schools north of Oxford have had to fight hard to maintain pupil numbers since the recession.
“It is a sign of their quality and resilience that they have coped with hard times and this year has seen greater demand as the economy has recovered.”
Experts across the board agreed the boost was down to parents feeling they could afford to go private and worries about the state sector – with almost daily warnings of a crisis in teacher recruitment and draconian cuts to the sector by the Conservatives.
Prof Alan Smithers, director of the Centre for Education and Employment Research, said: “I think if numbers are going up it is that more people are finding they are going to be able to pay again.
“It is also about concerns about the state sector which I’m afraid our politicians have left in a little bit of a mess – in the sense that the best state schools are as good as the independent schools but the worst are appalling.
“The trouble is the best state schools are greatly oversubscribed so parents can’t be confident of getting into the schools they want their sons and daughters to attend.
“They do feel they have an element of control if they are finding the fees.”
Barnaby Lenon, chairman of the Independent Schools Council, said: “It is remarkable that although we are only at the start of an economic recovery the number of pupils at UK independent schools is at the highest level since records began in 1974.”
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