State school pupils now comprise the largest group of new entrants to the independent sector, the ISC Census reveals.
Almost 30 per cent of pupils joining the sector have switched from state schools, more than from any other source including other independent schools, nursery schools and overseas.
It is the first time state schools have overtaken other independent schools as the greatest source of new entrants to the sector since records began in 2015.
That year, 31.4 per cent of new entrants to independent schools were switching from other independent schools, and 25.8 per cent came from state schools.
This year, 29.8 per cent of new independent school pupils had switched there from the state sector and 29.7 had come from other independent schools.
Julie Robinson, chief executive of the ISC, said that parents chose to switch to the private sector for “various reasons” such as accessing specialist SEND provision, smaller class sizes, or boarding options.
“For many families, an independent school provides an environment best suited to their child’s needs,” she said.
The census also reveals that independent school pupil numbers overall were up, standing at 554,243 pupils at 1,395 ISC member schools in 2023. This is up from 544,316 in 2022.
Of the 1,360 schools completing the census in both 2022 and 2023, pupil numbers have increased by 1.6 per cent. Every UK region experienced an increase in independent school pupil numbers, with the South East experiencing the highest rise at 2.2 per cent.
Data shows that fees were up on average 5.6 per cent this year, the highest rise since 2009, the year after the 2008 financial crash.
The average day school fee is now £16,656 and the average boarding fee is £39,000.
The census also revealed that that schools were educating 2,000 Ukrainian pupils and were spending record amounts – £1 billion – on bursaries.
The census also revealed:
- Almost one in five pupils has special needs, including learning difficulties such as dyslexia or dyspraxia.
- Around 4 per cent of pupils leaving school for university had places at Oxbridge.
- There was a rise in the proportion of pupils heading to foreign universities, from 5 to 6 per cent.
- UK schools are continuing to open branches overseas and there are now 107 overseas campuses.
In a foreword to the report, Barnaby Lenon, chairman of the Independent Schools Council said independent schools were “facing many headwinds following the Covid pandemic, with economic uncertainty, rising costs and priorities such as good mental health and wellbeing, inclusion and sustainability”.
He added: “Independent schools in 2023 are intrinsic to the education system, providing educational and community opportunities and ensuring that there is increased capacity and specialism in UK education. But we are keen to do more: ISC would welcome conversations with all those involved in education about how to best share resource and knowledge in the sector to support the mission of raising educational standards for all children in 2024 and beyond.”