ISC census: sector shows resilience

Results of the ISC census 2014 are encouraging, with Prep schools in particular showing a significant increase in pupil numbers

This year’s ISC annual census of independent schools across the UK provides confirmation of the resilience and stability of the sector in times of continued economic uncertainty.

There are more pupils of prep school age at ISC schools, with an increase of 1.1% in the number of pupils aged ten and under.There are 5,216 more pupils in this age group, auguring well for the sector’s future.

Overall there are more pupils reported at ISC schools in 2014 than in 2013. Significantly, there are now more pupils at ISC schools than there were in 2008 at the start of the economic downturn – 511,928 pupils at 1,257 ISC schools compared to 508,601 pupils at 1,223 schools in 2013. At the 1,209 schools completing the census in both 2013 and 2014, pupil numbers have held steady.

There are also rises in the numbers of pupils boarding at ISC schools, with an increase of 1.0% at those schools completing the Census in both 2013 and 2014. There are now 68,453 boarders at ISC schools compared to 66,766 last year.

ISC schools continue to increase the value of fee assistance, by an average of 5.1% this year. This brings the total value of fee assistance provided by ISC schools to over £660 million, an increase of almost £40 million over last year. Eight percent of pupils now receive means-tested bursaries and, of these, 41.9% had more than half their fees remitted by their school. This reflects the long-term aim of ISC schools to increase the amount of bursary provision and widen access to their schools. By contrast, school fees have shown the lowest rise for 20 years at 3.9%.

Barnaby Lenon, chairman, Independent Schools Council, commented: “This census is about hard facts. It shows comprehensively and dispassionately what the state of the sector is. Overwhelmingly, the facts this census lays out are of a sector that is performing with resilience and stability. Parents clearly continue to value independent education and our schools are seen as amongst the best in the world. 

“At the heart of our schools are high standards that put our schools ahead of the competition, with a tremendous record of academic achievement, stimulating opportunities for pupils outside the classroom and a professional approach to pastoral care.”

Rudolf Eliott Lockhart, deputy general secretary and head of research, Independent Schools Council, commented: “Every year we undertake to conduct the census to the highest standards of rigour and research and this report marks the culmination of a seven-month process. It is important we document and track the year-on-year trends and performance in our sector: we’ve been doing this for four decades and have built up a valuable record of how independent schools have changed over this period. This year I’m particularly delighted that our schools have continued to show such robust performance, with a growth in the numbers of pupils under ten and an increase in the number of boarders.”

The 2014 census includes data on all 1,257 schools in UK membership of the constituent associations of ISC. These schools comprise 1,189 schools in England; 33 in Scotland; 18 in Wales; 10 in Northern Ireland; five in the Channel Islands; and two in the Isle of Man.

Full census can be found here.

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


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