Why choose an independent school?
By Julie Robinson, chief executive of the Independent Schools Council
20 Apr

Every parent wants to pick the perfect school for their child. For those with children taking that all-important step into secondary school, there can be numerous different factors to consider. An independent education is the ideal option for many families, with a diverse range of schools and learning approaches from which to choose…

Parents might choose an independent school for some or all of their child’s education. The sector encompasses single-sex and co-educational schools, day schools and boarding schools, enabling parents to select the environment most suited to their child’s needs. Some schools have their own specialisms – in sports or music, for example – giving young people the opportunity to pursue their passions, develop their talents and grow in confidence.

Independent schools have the freedom to follow their own curriculum, which enables them to personalise learning and create assessments around pupils’ individual skill sets. It also means that schools can offer subjects that are not always available elsewhere, such as art history or classics, providing pupils with enriching educational experiences.

A variety of qualifications is offered within the independent sector, including GCSEs and A-levels, IGCSEs and IA-levels, and the International Baccalaureate Diploma. Regardless of whether a pupil wishes to pursue a more academic or vocational pathway, independent schools are well placed to provide access to the route that will best meet their needs.

Independent schools vary significantly in size, from fewer than 20 pupils to over 2,400, although half of all schools have fewer than 300 pupils. An attractive feature of many independent schools is their smaller-than-average class sizes, with a pupil-teacher ratio of close to 9:1. This makes it easier for teachers to provide individualised support based on pupils’ strengths and learning requirements.

While independent schools pride themselves on their academic excellence, they also recognise the importance of delivering high-quality character education and supporting pupils’ overall wellbeing. Pupils have the opportunity to take part in a variety of extracurricular activities, ranging from debating to Combined Cadet Force training, encouraging them to meet new people, explore new interests, and develop important soft skills.

Independent schools are committed to widening access, through meaningful partnership work with state schools and life-transforming bursary and scholarship programmes. Our annual Census shows that £455 million of means-tested fee assistance was provided in 2021, an increase of £15 million from the previous year. Parents are encouraged to contact schools directly to learn more about the bursary provision available – this can be done via the ‘Find A School’ tool on our website, which allows users to search for independent schools by location, residency type, age range and more:

To find out more about the breadth of UK independent schools, visit For more resources and information about the independent school sector, visit

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Tags: independent schools, independent schools council, ISC, Julie Robinson, Parents, prep schools, schools, senior schools

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