As a parent, it’s only natural that you want the very best for your children – and education is no different. But there are many things to consider when deciding whether or not to send your children to independent rather than state school: is it worth the money? What are the key differences between the two? And how will an independent education really benefit your child?
Before considering these points, it is important to note that independent school attendance is no longer strictly for the privileged few. Indeed, there are now more children at independent schools than at any other point since records began. In total, 517,113 pupils are now enrolled at Independent Schools Council (ISC) establishments, up from 511,928 in 2014. One in seven pupils aged 16 and over now attends an ISC school, indicating that children are making the switch to independent schooling throughout their education.
So why is the popularity of independent schools increasing, even at a time when households are still being particularly stringent about their spending in the wake of the financial crisis?
When it comes to gaining entry to the most prestigious universities, sixth form is arguably the most important period in education. As such, it makes sense for sixth formers to attract a disproportionately high level of spending on their tuition.
However, this simply isn’t the case in the state sector at present. According to analysis from the Association of Colleges (AoC), the average state funding for 16 to 18-year-olds is £4,500 – approximately £1,000 less than the amount put into educating under-16s.
This is in stark contrast to the approach taken by independent schools. Figures from the ISC show that average fees for sixth formers stand at £14,475 per year, representing an increase of seven per cent on the £13,476 spent on under-16s.
“While the private sector recognises that funding needs to increase for students at this crucial time in their education, the government sees fit to reduce spending,” the AoC noted.
With the advent of all-iPad schools and round-the-clock access to technology, independent schools are leading the way when it comes to adopting digital education tools and services.
At the Stephen Perse Foundation in Cambridge, all students aged between 11 and 18 are given iPads, allowing them to watch recorded snapshots of lessons via Google Apps for Education whenever they wish. Encouraging and easing access to education outside the classroom is one of the key benefits of tablet computers.
“We’re finding that pupils are engaging more, working better together and having fun with the technology, and teachers are adapting well to using the iPads to record their lessons too,” explained Daniel Edwards, the foundation’s director of innovation and learning.
“It only takes two taps and immediately there’s seamless access to content using technology.”
One of the main reasons parents typically choose to send their children to independent school is the higher quality of teaching. But is this a simple misconception?
Research from the Sutton Trust indicates that this view is accurate. A sixth of independent school teachers have a degree in their subject from Oxford or Cambridge – three times more than the national average.
What’s more, almost one in 15 teachers in independent schools holds a PhD, compared to about one in 40 at state schools.
Another oft-repeated view is that independent school leavers have greater earning potential.
Once more, evidence appears to support this view: a study from the Social Market Foundation revealed that children who attend fee-paying schools will have earned an average of almost £200,000 more than their state school-attending peers by the time they reach middle age.