The Independent Schools Council (ISC) works with its members to promote and preserve the quality, diversity and excellence of UK independent education both at home and abroad
What is the ISC?
The ISC brings together seven associations of independent schools, their heads, bursars and governors. Through our member associations we represent approximately 1,400 independent schools in the UK and overseas. These schools are among the best in the world and educate more than half a million children each year.
The ISC’s work is carried out by a small team of dedicated professionals in an office in central London. We are assisted by contributions from expert advisory groups in specialist areas. Our priorities are set by the board of directors led by our chairman, Barnaby Lenon. We are tasked by our members to protect and promote the sector in everything we do.
Schools in membership of the ISC’s constituent associations offer a high quality, rounded education. Whilst our schools are very academically successful, their strength also lies in the extra-curricular activities offered – helping to nurture pupils’ soft skills and encourage them to be self-disciplined, ambitious and curious. There are independent schools to suit every need, whether you want a day or boarding school, single-sex or co-education, a large or a small school, or schools offering specialisms, such as in the arts.
Our schools are very diverse: some are selective and highly academic, while others have very strong drama or music departments full of creative opportunities in plays, orchestras and choirs. For children with special needs such as dyslexia or autism there are many outstanding independent schools that offer some of the best provision in the country.
Many schools have very strong track records of high achievement in sport, offering a wide range of facilities and excellent coaches. Independent schools excel at traditional sports like football and rugby, but also offer more unusual sports like rowing, fencing and even rock climbing.
There is also a wealth of co-curricular opportunities available. Whether your child is into debating, sailing, the Model United Nations or is interested in army training in the Combined Cadet Force, most schools offer numerous clubs and activities. It all adds up to an exciting, broad and stimulating all-round education.
Typically, the ISC publishes a sector-wide analysis of Year 11 and Year 13 exam results for independent schools every August. However, due to the ongoing impact of the coronavirus pandemic on grading, the ISC did not conduct an external analysis of member schools’ results in 2022. There was no sector-wide publication of results in 2020 or 2021 because exams were temporarily replaced by different assessment processes that Ofqual had to create in response to the crisis. Schools provided students with their grades in August as they normally would in both 2020 and 2021.
Looking back at 2019, when exam results were last published, 45.7% of Year 13 exam entries at independent schools were graded A*/A, compared to the national average of 25.5%. That year also saw 95.6% of Year 11 exams at independent schools graded C/4 or higher, compared to the national average of 67.3%. Figures recorded in 2019 also demonstrated more students were following different pathways post-GCSE.
Schools take issues around affordability very seriously and are acutely aware of the sacrifices families make when choosing an independent education. Schools work hard to remain competitive whilst facing pressures on salaries, pensions and maintenance and utility costs. They are strongly committed to widening access and have made strenuous efforts to increase the amount they can offer in bursaries. Despite the financial strain brought about by the pandemic, many schools have extended their bursary provision – this year, the amount of means-tested fee assistance has risen to a total of £480m. Over 180,000 pupils currently benefit from reduced fees, representing over a third of pupils at our schools.
Independent and state schools have been engaged in partnership activity for many years, with the majority of ISC schools currently involved in important cross-sector initiatives. These collaborations involve the sharing of expertise, best practice and facilities, and unlock exciting new opportunities for all involved. To learn more about the partnership work taking place between state and independent schools, visit the Schools Together website: https://www.schoolstogether.org/
There are seven member associations of the ISC, each with a distinctive ethos in their respective entrance criteria and quality assurance:
Girls’ Schools Association (GSA)
Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference (HMC)
Independent Association of Prep Schools (IAPS)
Independent Schools Association (ISA)
The Society of Heads
Association of Governing Bodies of Independent Schools (AGBIS) – www.agbis.org
Independent Schools’ Bursars Association (ISBA) – www.isba.org.uk
Further organisations who are affiliated to the ISC: Boarding Schools Association (BSA), Council of British International Schools (COBIS), Scottish Council of Independent Schools (SCIS) and Welsh Independent Schools Council (WISC).
The Independent Schools Council can be contacted at:
27 Queen Anne’s Gate,
Telephone: 020 7766 7070