Private schools save the taxpayer £3.5 billion a year


Private schools are saving the UK taxpayer billions of pounds a year, according to a report just released by the Independent Schools Council (ISC)

In a sector often under criticism for favouring the ‘lucky few’ and with Michael Gove recently quoted as saying he’d like to focus on improving state schools while closing private ones, it’s been revealed that the economic benefits and taxpayer savings from independent school education are actually enormous.

Julie Robinson, ISC chief executive, said: “Independent schools provide capacity, variety and flexibility in our education system. The existence of a private sector eases pressure on class sizes in state schools and saves the taxpayer £3.5 billion each year.”

The savings come in many forms, but by privately educating children who would otherwise need state places and by providing employment, community facilities and tax contributions, there are very clear benefits to the economy.

In the 2019 report, Oxford Economics found that the sector supported 302,000 jobs and in addition to the savings made by not over-burdening the state sector, independent schools and their suppliers paid £4.1 billion in tax.

The ISC accounts for 1,364 of the 2,500 independent schools in Britain, and its members teach more than 80 per cent of the 615,000 privately educated children.

Of the 1,300 schools who responded to the 2018 census, they reported a record number of pupils at ISC member schools, with an increase of 1.3% from the previous year. Overseas pupils also made up 5.4% of the total, with 45% of non-British pupils coming from EEA countries and 13% from the USA and a marked increase from China, Taiwan, Japan and South Korea. Pupils from an ethnic minority also made up 33.9% of the total ISC schools, whereas state-funded schools made up 32.2% in 2018.

ISC chairman, Barnaby Lenon, said: “While most independent schools are small schools serving their local community, some attract pupils of many different nationalities and these young people have a positive influence on our ability to understand other cultures as well as the country’s economy and our intellectual base.

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.”

In other results from the census:

  • Just over 84,000 pupils identified as having special educational needs and disabilities (SEND), equating to 15.7% of all pupils.
  • Schools give more than twice as much means-tested fee assistance as opposed to non-means-tested, totalling over £420million and representing an increase of 6% compared with last year.
  • ISC schools have expanded their public benefit activities – 11,466 partnerships were recorded this year, compared with 10,553 last year.
  • Beyond partnerships with state schools, between £10million and £15million was raised for charities.


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