North-South divide keeps growing among private schools

Independent schools in the South and East of England bounce back to pre-recession strength, but pupil numbers drop elsewhere

Independent schools in the North of England and Wales are struggling to attract new pupils while schools in the South East are booming, new figures reveal, highlighting an ever-deepening geographical divide in private education.

Data released today shows that while private school student numbers overall are at their highest since comparable records began in 1974, the total number of children attending schools outside of the South East is dwindling.

According to data contained within the Independent Schools Council’s (ISC) annual census, the private sector has “weathered the economic storm” and bounced back to “pre-recession levels” in 2008.

But just three regions, London, East Anglia and the South East, have seen an increase in pupil numbers, whereas the South West, the East and West Midlands, the North and both Wales and Scotland have all witnessed falls.

Over the past year, the North experienced one of the biggest drops in pupil numbers of 0.9 per cent, following a modest 0.1 per cent rise in 2015.

Chris Ramsey, headmaster of the King’s School, Chester, a co-educational day school, said times remained tough for private schools in his area.

“Without doubt, the independent school market in the North West remains highly competitive, demand is static and we are seeing increased mobility of parents,” Mr Ramsey said. “As with most businesses, I don’t think any of us are enjoying the post-recession increase in demand that we had initially hoped for.”

This is an edited article from the 29 April edition of TES. Subscribers can view the full story here. This week’s TES magazine is available in all good newsagents. To download the digital edition, Android users can click here and iOS users can click here

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