Independent Schools Council: Private schools in London enjoy boom as the North suffers

Pupil numbers at private schools in London have soared since the start of the recession, while institutions in the North have been left struggling, a new report reveals.

New figures from the Independent Schools Council’s annual census showed a 14 per cent rise in pupils at private schools in the capital since 2007, while schools in the North suffered around a 12 per cent drop over the same period.

In the South East and East Anglia, there was a modest rise in pupil numbers of 3 per cent.

“This shows the dramatically different experiences of the recession at schools in different parts of the country” the report says.

Barnaby Lenon, chairman of the Independent Schools Council, told TES: “It’s generally understood that a great deal of economic growth in the country is being driven by London and the South East and it’s clear that independent schools have not only benefited, but are partly responsible for it.

“London is growing as a result of international investment and there’s no debate that migrants coming into the capital have relied heavily on independent schools.”

His words echoed those of Susan Hamlyn, director of the advice service at The Good Schools Guide, who recently said that you could open a school “in a cowshed” in London and still fill it.

Competition to get into the best London schools had also become a “global market” she said, with local families competing with foreign ones.

Dr Joe Spence, master of Dulwich College, a leading independent school in the capital, added: “London is undoubtedly experiencing the initial benefits of economic recovery across many sectors, including the highly-competitive market of independent education. 

"Dulwich College…is working hard to attract bright boys and not taking this economic advantage for granted and is optimistic that the green shoots will soon spread across the country."

Mr Lenon said that overall he was very pleased with the results of this year’s census, which indicated that overall pupil numbers were holding steady.

There was an increase in pupils in a number of areas, including a 1.1 per cent rise in pupils aged 10 and under in private schools. A statement from the ISC said this “augured well” for the sector’s future.

There was also a 1 per cent rise in boarders in schools who took part in the survey in both 2013 and 2014. In addition, the total amount of money offered to parents in fees assistance rose to over £660 million.