Edinburgh private schools buck trend as roll numbers rise

Private schools are more popular than ever
Private schools are more popular than ever
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Private schools in the Capital are bucking the nationwide trend of decreasing roll numbers, with over a third of all pupils in the Scottish independent sector now studying in Edinburgh.

It was reported in August that the cost of a private education in Scotland had risen by 63 per cent in the past ten years, with the average family paying almost £10,000 per child per year.

Concerns have been raised that rising costs coupled with the economic downturn were pricing many more families out of private education.

A recent report by the Scottish Council of Independent Schools (SCIS) showed the number of pupils being privately educated had fallen for the fifth year running.

In 2007 there were 32,065 pupils in the independent sector, but this has now dropped by two per cent to 31,357.

However, roll numbers at independent schools in Edinburgh have increased over the past five years, with some schools currently handling their largest intake of pupils to date. According to figures released by the SCIS, there are 10,576 pupils on the school roll at independent schools in Edinburgh. If East Lothian schools are included, the number rises to 11,420.

John Edward, director of the SCIS, said: “Edinburgh’s independent schools have remained remarkably buoyant in the current financial climate.

“Some independent schools in the city are full to capacity and have waiting lists, which means that families need to apply early. But the schools are certainly not complacent and they are sensitive of the considerable sacrifices that many parents make to afford fees.”

Fettes College, which was attended by ex-Prime Minister Tony Blair and recently announced a £12m revamp, has seen a 13 per cent rise in pupil numbers in the last five years, with the school now at full capacity. In 2008, there were 651 pupils at the £27,000-a-year school, which in 2012 has risen to 738. In September this year, Scotland’s oldest boarding school, the Loretto School in Musselburgh, East Lothian, recorded its highest pupil numbers in its 185 years. The school, also now at full capacity, reported an 18 per cent increase in the number of new pupils, taking its total roll to 635.

Though pupils at Fettes and Loretto sit A-levels rather than Highers, it was announced in August that private schools across the country where Higher exams were used were celebrating their highest scores to date.

While the percentage of pupils obtaining at least a C pass across all Scottish schools, private and state, was 76.9 per cent, when the pass rate for private schools was taken separately, the figure stood at 93 per cent. Four Edinburgh schools were in the top six of the 32 private schools whose pupils sat Highers.

George Heriot’s School, which achieved the best exam results for private schools in Edinburgh where pupils sit Highers, has seen a 1.8 per cent rise in pupil numbers since 2008.