ISC Census reveals rise in independent school pupils

Despite challenges such as Brexit and school fee rises, there are more pupils (and European pupils) at independent schools this year than in 2018

The Independent Schools Council’s (ISC) Census 2019 has reported that there are 6,945 more pupils at ISC member schools this year than in 2018.

There are now a record 536,109 pupils at 1,364 ISC schools, up from 529,164 last year.

An increase in the number of European Economic Area (EEA) pupils was described as “surprising” by ISC chairman, Barnaby Lenon, given the uncertainty surrounding Brexit. Among the 26,370 non-British pupils whose parents live in the UK, 45% come from EEA countries, up three percentage points from last year.

Lenon said: “It is perhaps surprising to see an increase in the number of EEA pupils at ISC schools given the uncertainty surrounding Brexit, but clearly much value is placed on the broad all-round education independent schools offer, their inclusive environments and commitment to supporting the development of globally conscious young people.”

There is also more fee assistance this year. Schools give more than twice as much means-tested fee assistance as opposed to non-means-tested, totalling over £420m and representing an increase of 6% compared with last year.

“It is hugely encouraging to see an increase once again in means-tested bursary provision for lower income families, which helps widen access to independent schools,” said Lenon.

It is perhaps surprising to see an increase in the number of EEA pupils at ISC schools given the uncertainty surrounding Brexit, but clearly much value is placed on the broad all-round education independent schools offer

“Over the past year, we have seen schools embark upon ambitious fundraising campaigns to support this important work and join programmes to offer free boarding school places to looked-after children and young people on the edge of care.”

Between £10-15m was raised for charities at ISC schools this year.

Partnerships with state schools have also grown, with 11,466 partnerships recorded this year, compared with 10,553 last year.

The way pupils board has also changed. 17.9% of boarders this year are weekly or flexi boarders, compared to 15.7% in 2016. However, full boarding still remains the most popular option.

The census, which has been conducted annually for the past 45 years, is completed by all schools in ISC membership; the survey was carried out in January 2019.

You can read it in full on ISC’s website.