Article published 9th December 2009
Times may be hard yet, despite the odd private school closure, reports show the independent school sector is remaining resilient and robust. An independent school education remains highly prized and sought-after.
We take a look at the key reasons why, even in hardtimes, parents are prepared to put school fees first...
- School choice. Within the state sector parents are free to express a preference but they do not have the same degree of freedom to choose and to shop-around as those paying fees. Private schools claim to offer something for everyone and many offer an awful lot.
- High academic standards. Despite progress in the state sector, independent schools still dominate academic league tables and entry to top universities. While a handful of independent schools are super-selective, academic hot-houses, a good many are not. Indeed country schools often actively recruit and will accept a wide-range of abilities - viewing every bum on a seat as a bursar off their back. Yet there is an undoubted element of 'silk-purse from sows ear'...Many schools that typically take very average students, eek out every last drop of potential with resultant remarkable value-added.
- Fewer pupils per class. Greater individual attention, better, faster and more targeted progress. Discipline and pastoral care are better too. Problem children are less likely to be tolerated; 'independent' means schools can decide who enters, who exits and when!
- Extensive extra curricula activities. Many offer a fantastic range of extra-curricular activities; from the exciting to the erudite, dance to diving...And if that's not enough the associated curriculum trips, cultural expeditions and sports/ music tours can be pretty spectacular too!
- Sport for all is encouraged. Most offer a range to ensure something for everyone. Netball, lacrosse and rugby may be de-rigueur but sailing, shooting, climbing, caving, mountain-biking, golf and squash are just some of the off-piste offerings.
- Some are spectacular. Harry Potter eat your heart out; many of the great and grand have settings to die for with facilities to match.
- Facilities are first-class. Not all have amazing amenities but we've seen TV studios coveted by the BBC, purpose-built theatres, state of the art science labs, luxurious sport and leisure centres...
- Choose to stay or go. Many schools offer a choice of day, boarding or a mix of the two, as and when.
- Social mix. Independent schools provide great networking opportunities - the burgeoning of social networking sites is ensuring the old school tie remains in rude health with most alumni achieving salaries well in excess of those commanded by state school educated colleagues.
- Parents can afford to pay. But some, only just. Independent education is not cheap, many parents undertake two jobs, re-mortgage and all but get out the begging bowl to ensure their off-spring participate in the perceived privilege of a paid-for education. Of course, for the lucky few, there are scholarships and bursaries - some worth more than 100% of the fees.