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Press Release & Statements

25 June 2019

SCIS response to Social Mobility Commission/Sutton Trust Report

The Elitist Britain 2019 Report is described as a detailed analysis of the educational background of business, political, media and public sector leaders in the UK.

While an interesting report on the public service leaver destinations of pupils in the United Kingdom, the Report makes no reference to political devolution over the last twenty years.

The Report looks at the UK Government and Opposition, the UK Parliament and local government in England.  However it makes no comparison with the Scottish Government or Parliament, Scottish local government, or with the National Assembly for Wales or Welsh Government.

In particular, the Report recommends  that independent schools "do more to increase number of pupils from lower socio-economic backgrounds" but makes no reference to the unique public benefit test applied to Scottish independent schools - specifically aimed at widening access through means-testing.

19 June 2019

Evidence to the Scottish Parliament on Non-Domestic Rates

SCIS, along with Hutchesons' Grammar School, St Mary's Preparatory School, Melrose, and OSCR gave evidence to the Scottish Parliament's Local Government and Communities Committee, on the implications for the independent sector of the proposed removal of mandatory non-domestic rates relief.

The oral evidence can be watched on Scottish Parliament TV and YouTube, and the transcript is available as well as full details of the Committee's inquiry into the Non-Domestic Rates (Scotland) Bill.

The Finance and Constitution Committee has also taken written evidence on the estimated financial implications of the Bill as set out in its accompanying Financial Memorandum.

1 May 2019

Why choice matters 

Comment from John Edward, Director at the Scottish Council of Independent Schools:

The Herald recently reported on findings by Reform Scotland that reveal a sharp reduction in the number of National 4 and 5s available in many of Scotland’s local authority schools, thereby narrowing subject choice for children.

“But why is subject choice so important? Having an interest in a subject makes the learning process enjoyable, promoting greater enthusiasm and interest in studying. 

“Many students are unsure of their desired career path and therefore it is important for schools to offer a wide range of subject choices, giving young people more options when it comes to leaving school.

“That’s why Scotland’s independent schools pride themselves on the variety of subjects they offer and work hard to ensure the independent curriculum is accessible to as many young people across Scotland as is possible through the provision of fee assistance. 

“In the last academic year, independent schools in Scotland have provided in excess of £51 million in fee assistance demonstrating the sector’s absolute commitment to widening access to curriculum choice in Scotland.

“The ethos of independent education is a broad cross-curricular approach to education, giving every student the wisest preparation for, and interest in, life. That’s why independent schools will continue to offer the widest possible subject choice to help prepare children for their futures and arm them with the skills and disciplines required to succeed in their futures, whatever that might be.”

28 March 2019

Independent schools at ‘competitive disadvantage’ - TES Scotland

Rates reform in Scotland singles out independent schools, says the body representing the sector

20 March 2019

Letter to The Guardian

Those working in the world of independent education are used to having many of society’s ills laid at their door. Adding Brexit to that pile is the daftest and most desperate yet. I should know. I am both director of the schools’ representative body in Scotland, but also a veteran of 25 years’ engagement with the EU and chief campaign spokesman for Scotland Stronger in Europe in 2016. The idea that the families, teachers, support staff and schools dotted around Scotland are complicit in any way in the purist fantasies of a couple of dozen far-right/left ideologues and their spivvish backers is as needlessly offensive as it is outdated and wide of the mark. You can ask many of them directly when they march through London on Saturday. It is notable – in these fraught and finger-pointing times – that no one (rightly) brings up the educational background of Davis, Fox, Stuart, Duncan Smith, Dorries, Stringer, Bridgen, Francois, Field, Leadsom, Baker, Patel etc.
John Edward
Director, Scottish Council of Independent Schools

2 March 2019

‘Decrying the independent sector doesn't help any child’

Wishing ill on the independent sector is offensive and will not help pupils in the state sector, says SCIS Director John Edward.

13 February 2019

Response to Guardian editorial

As your editorial (“Motors of unfairness”, 12 February) points out, the debate on independent schools has been active for at least 50 years. (We say “independent” because we are autonomous, but not-for-profit).

A lot has changed in the worlds since then, and it is only fair to recognise that that world includes the devolved UK.

Since 2006, schools in Scotland have been answerable to a specific test of public benefit, by the independent charity regulator.  Means-tested fee assistance has more than tripled (giving higher education, per capita, a run for its money) and schools have modernised and extended their relations with local authority schools and communities.  Sharing of subject teachers and specialist instructors is matched by opening of facilities and extra-curricular provision, while staff support both the national qualification and inspection regimes.  As you rightly point out, these registered charities are  - exclusively - also about to lose non-domestic rates relief – something Wales is now considering.

The debate requires honesty about how the state will pay for the additional pupils and schools restrictions elsewhere would produce.  It also requires honesty from a national newspaper about the diverse approaches of education already underway across the UK.

Yours sincerely,

John Edward

Director

 

24 January 2019

Unique contribution of Edinburgh independent schools recognised                                                                                           

In a report launched today, the contribution of Edinburgh’s unique independent school sector is fully revealed. The 10 Edinburgh independent schools together educate around 11,700 nursery, primary and secondary pupils and employ 2,580 staff.  

In releasing the report, The Edinburgh Schools Heads commented jointly that:

“The independent school offer in Edinburgh is unique in both its breadth and scale.  It cover all forms of education provision; all-through, preparatory, day, boarding, single sex or co-educational.  It also offers SQA qualifications, GCSE and A-Level, International Baccalaureate and Steiner Curriculum.  The Edinburgh independent schools make a significant contribution to the City of Edinburgh and throughout Scotland.  As not for profit organisations, maintaining financial sustainability is of crucial importance as it allows the schools to fulfil their core role of providing education to pupils and enables them to undertake additional activities.

This report seeks to show the level of contribution the schools make to the local and national economic and educational capital, as well as their increasing contribution to widening access through means-tested fee assistance, and the scale of use of their shared facilities and resources.  All of this is achieved while adhering closely to their not-for-profit status. 

The report provides strong evidence of the huge benefit that Edinburgh's Independent Schools bring to the City. We urge those making decisions about the future of Edinburgh to heed this evidence and to work with us for the benefit of the whole community.  

The Edinburgh independent schools are determined to sustain and continue the unique contribution they have been making to Scotland’s capital city for almost 400 years”.

This assessment considers the contribution of 10 Edinburgh independent schools and includes:

 

23 January 2019

Reply to opinion piece in The National

Dear Editor

A modern and vibrant Scotland needs all the debate it can cope with.  It needs all the views it can accommodate.  It also needs to separate fact from .

Had Kevin McKenna written his piece (“Elite schools for the privileged do so much to maintain ills in our society”, 23 January), about any other group of parents and young people in Scotland, the reaction would be immediate, brutal and uncompromising.  How he can “suppose” that in ANY Scottish school “your parents’ money is rated as important as your academic grades” and has a value system characterised by “money gets you everywhere” is quite beyond me, but demonstrates he has no real interest in the experience of 30,000 pupils and families in Scotland today.

For example, his supposition that independent schools in Scotland have any distant correlation with Brexit is as glib and offensive as it is laughable, as the published views of this organisation and individual heads and schools make very clear.  He should perhaps follow Brian Redhead, late of Radio 4’s advice, and observe a personal one-minute silence for daring to suggest that he knows how they all vote.

He seeks to justify his valid personal disapproval with the conflation that every one of the 6000 independent school pupils walking the streets of Glasgow are somehow aligned with the grim failure of political leadership on all sides away in Westminster, or the excesses of British colonialism, while disparaging the efforts those pupils and their teachers make to seek do prove their worth in public, private and third sectors.

He dismisses a public benefit test, unique to Scotland and designed by Holyrood – irrespective that means-tested fee assistance has more than tripled as a result, outstrips the UK by a considerable distance and, per capita, gives (publicly-funded) higher education a run for our money.  He ignores the £250 million in taxes and 11,000 jobs the sector maintain to cast aspersions of “corruption”.  All of this is done with merely a passing reference to the Scottish Government’s plan to increase business rate fivefold for 50 out of the 24,500 bodies on the Scottish charity register.

At no point does he pause to offer an explanation of how a modern Scotland should start paying for a further 28,500 pupils it currently does not have to; or why that modern Scotland should cast out 1,500 international boarders from over 50 countries; by closing historic and successful institutions. The same schools - broad in academic and extra-curricular provision and sought-after for learning support –must go for the sake of ideological purity.  It is this thinking that sees pupils in care from England taking up fully funded places in Scottish boarding schools, while no-one dares volunteer the same in Scotland itself.

Your correspondent’s slights at the expense of the Society of Jesus are below him and your publication.  The rest of his broadside shows that however much most of modern Scotland is prepared to listen and to collaborate, there are some for whom their personal view of perfect must be the enemy of the good.

Yours sincerely

John Edward

 

16 January 2019

Response to Observer commentary on Kynaston & Green book

Dear Sirs

 If they seek to generate informed debate on Britain’s independent schools (Britain’s private school problem”, 13.01.19) David Kynaston and Francis Green need to get out and about around Britain itself.  Despite the photo of a Scottish school accompanying your online edition, there was no recognition whatsoever how systems and policies have diverged across the UK.

Scotland’s independent schools are part of the fabric of Scottish education.  They are all inspected by the same Inspectorate, Education Scotland, to which the sector contributes a healthy number of associate assessors.  Most teach to the same SQA examinations as the state system, with independent school teachers making a disproportionate contribution to the design and marking of those.

Most of all, since 2005, Scotland has had a discrete charity test which specifically looks at public benefit and widened access.  Since the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator got to work, schools have re-assessed and modernised their bursary, teaching and facility provision.  Means-tested fee assistance is now the norm, often starting with applicants requiring 100% support, and it has more than tripled to over £30 million in a sector of just under 30,000 pupils.  For reasons best known to itself, the Scottish Government has also decided to mark that legislative success by removing business rates relief from – exclusively - independent schools which have passed the public benefit test, although Wales is now consulting on something similar.

Tired clichés of boaters, old-boys and ivory towers are one thing, but stubborn ignorance of the diversity in the UK, is another.  Scotland’s schools are ready to talk, if anyone is prepared to listen.

Yours sincerely,

John Edward

Scottish Council of Independent Schools

 

20 November 2018

Statement about the Closure of The New School, Butterstone

“The news of the closure of The New School is a cause of great concern for the families and staff involve, and regret for Scottish education.    

The New School has played a unique and sensitive role for over 25 years in supporting and educating children with a wide range of specialist educational needs. 

It is a cause of concern for all of Scotland that the considerable responsibilities of the care sector and the demands on finance and resources have brought the school to this situation.  As a small independent charitable institution dealing in additional support needs, the climate has grown ever more challenging at the same time as the demand for schools like this is increasing across the country.

We will do all we can to offer support and assistance to the pupils, families and staff of The New School to find other centres where they can settle and flourish, just as they did at Butterstone.”

John Edward Director, SCIS

30 October 2018 

Scottish independent schools provide £51 million in fee assistance this academic year

Figures released by the Scottish Council for Independent Schools (SCIS) have revealed that Independent Schools in Scotland have provided in excess of £51 million in fee assistance during the current academic year (2018 / 2019).

The data, collected from SCIS’s 74 member schools, shows that 24.6% of mainstream pupils (7204) received means tested assistance (£30,807,706), with 573 pupils (3.2%) benefiting from 100% fee assistance.  A further £20,301,772 was awarded to children on non-means tested basis.

The figures show an increase of £2,473,121 on the previous year and brings the total fee assistance provided by the sector in the last ten years (2009 – 2019) to £404,495,065.

Commenting on the results, John Edward, Director of SCIS, said: “This results of the research into fee assistance in the independent sector demonstrates our absolute commitment to widening access to independent education in Scotland.

“We are responsible for educating 30,000 children around the country and the availability of fee assistance is something the sector is hugely proud of and works hard to achieve.  We have seen a steady and significant increase in the bursaries available rising from £24,588,023 in 2009/2010 to the current figure of £51,109,478. 

“This is a significant financial commitment for schools – all of which are not-for-profit - as the budget for fee assistance must come from cash reserves once salaries and other operational expenses have been paid.”

John added: “Scotland’s independent sector provides choice, diversity and excellence for Scotland’s young people and we will continue to work hard to safeguard fee assistance despite the impact of the Barclay review which will cost the sector £5 million a year.”

For further information on fee assistance visit: http://www.scis.org.uk/information-for-parents/independent-school-fees/

10 September 2018

Full Response to article in The Herald

“The fundamental problem with this un-costed proposal is that it seeks to generate more income from a sector that it also seeks to “eradicate” – it can’t do both.  Unlike in England and Wales, Scotland’s independent schools already sit a stringent public benefit test, to secure widened access.  On top of that, they now face a unique five-fold increase in business rates.  Scottish parents and tax-payers might well ask what they have done to merit yet another tax rise, especially to pay for free school meals in England which are already free in Scotland.

The proposal makes no allowance for reduced demand. Parents make great sacrifices to send their children to independent schools and would be hard hit by a rise in fees that this tax would bring. For many, this could make the schools unaffordable and many children would end up being withdrawn and move to existing state schools where extra places would then have to be funded by the taxpayer, costing at least £6000 per year per child – always assuming there are enough classrooms to house them and state-funded teachers to teach them.  

Every year, our schools save the Scottish education budget £180 million, add £450 million to the Scottish economy and generate £250 million in tax.  In straightened times, they secure high attainment and offer subject choice, varied curricula, wide extra-curricular provision and learning support.  They should be left alone to continue that contribution to the nation.”

 

16 AUGUST 2018

SCIS response to Scotsman article on Derek Mackay

John Edward, Director, Scottish Council of Independent Schools:

 “The fact that independent schools will retain their charitable status but will not be eligible to the same charitable rates relief as every other charity in the UK as a result of the Barclay Review makes no sense.

 “So, the real question that Finance Secretary, Derek Mackay, should be asking following the government’s decision to remove independent schools’ charitable rates relief altogether is why not leave all registered charities alone? 

 “If he truly believes in Scotland’s competitive edge and removing an apparent inequality in the relief for educational bodies, then he should be arguing that all registered charities should be subject only to OSCR and instead encourage councils to use the 2015 Act to remove the anomaly of rates allocated to schools in their jurisdiction.

 “That way everyone can get on with doing their best and no further money is taken out the system.”

07 August 2018

Scotland’s independent schools excelling in languages as SQA results revealed

68% of independent school pupils achieve A grade in language Highers

As SQA exam results are released, data from the Scottish Council of Independent Schools (SCIS) reveals that 68% of pupils studying foreign languages have achieved a Higher grade A.

The data, collected from SCIS’s 74 member schools, shows that 72% of students achieved a Higher grade A in Mandarin, while 72% of those studying German, 69% of those studying French and 63% studying Spanish also achieved an A.

Scotland’s independent schools saw an improvement on 2017 results across the board, achieving 96% of National 5, 95% of Higher and 93% of Advanced Higher A-C passes across all subjects.

Commenting on the results, John Edward, Director of SCIS, said: “Congratulations to all students receiving their SQA results today. I am thrilled to see Scotland’s independent schools achieve such outstanding results that have topped last year’s yet again.

“It is particularly encouraging to see so many pupils flourish in languages. Languages provide young people with enhanced communication and adaptability skills, a deeper cultural awareness, as well as opening up a world of job opportunities which means that providing children with the opportunity to learn a new language from a younger age is paramount.”

Other Higher results for students across Scotland’s independent schools include:

  • 56% achieved a grade A in English; 95% achieved an A-C pass
  • 61% achieved a grade A in Maths; 93% achieved an A-C pass
  • 52% achieved a grade A in Physics; 92% achieved an A-C pass
  • 56% achieved a grade A in Chemistry; 93% achieved an A-C pass
  • 56% achieved a grade A in Biology; 93% achieved an A-C pass

Edward concluded: “Independent schools in Scotland have a track record of academic excellence and this is reflected once again in this year’s results. Smaller pupil/teacher ratios and significant investment in teaching facilities attracts some of the best teachers from across Scotland and beyond and this is reflected in the pupils’ outstanding exam performance.

“Despite challenging circumstances, Scotland’s independent sector continues to demonstrate dedication, energy and expertise in providing choice, diversity and excellence for Scotland’s young people.” 

July 2018

Statement about the closure of Beaconhurst School

“The news of the closure of Beaconhurst School, Bridge of Allan, is terribly sad.    This is a singular situation, not reflective of the independent school sector generally. 

Independent schools in Scotland are strong and we know that admissions are in good health with reports of high levels of interest and applications.  Our main concern is to offer support and assistance to the pupils, families and staff of Beaconhurst to find other schools where they can settle quickly.  We know that other independent schools will be accommodating and welcoming to Beaconhurst pupils where space permits.”

Monday 25th June 2018

SCIS Response to the opening of the Scottish Government consultation on Barclay implementation

“The Government’s consultation claims that it helps make Scotland the most attractive place for doing business in Europe; while putting some of Scotland’s most ambitious, successful and historic educational not-for-profit institutions at a competitive disadvantage to the rest of the United Kingdom.  It suggests making 50 charitable bodies different from 24,000 others in Scotland and over 180,000 in England and Wales.

The consultation uses a facile calculation of the impact on each school and family, completely disregarding the substantial variations in rateable value that are not dependent on school roll. The OSCR public benefit test was able to differentiate between sizes, types, facilities, incomes and outgoings, and it is both surprising and disappointing that the Government’s own Impact Assessment was incapable of doing the same.

Equally, the expanded contribution of means-tested fee assistance and the often-overlooked provision of arts, sports and academic provision to large parts of local communities is completely disregarded. All of that provision will now be subject to the same five-fold increase in business rates - which will in no way help the attainment, skills and health of Scotland’s children.

Last but not least, the consultation insists on comparing independent schools with local authority schools. It cannot be repeated often enough, clearly, that state schools do not have to make allowance out of their individual budgets for an entirely paper-based rates valuation. Every penny spent on state schools is every taxpayers’ money, every penny spent in independent schools comes from parents, after they have paid that same tax.”

 

 

 

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Friday 19 January:

SCIS full response to article and poll in "The Times"

“The poll results will make depressing reading for the schools that have worked so hard for over 10 years to pass a test of their public benefit and widen access, something no other group of charities has done.  There is clearly much more work for the sector, and the charity regulator, to do in showing how much is being done – at the direct behest of the Parliament.
The results are perhaps less surprising given the nature of the recent public debate, with coverage of schools’ work using phrases like “swindle”, separating “precious offspring from the masses”, “obscene” and “insidious”.  It is a disgrace that the best intentions and choices of one group of teachers, families, pupils and schools can be portrayed in such a sweeping,  false and dismissive way.  No other group would be expected to tolerate it.
It is for policy-makers, and fair-weather critics, to explain to the public exactly what the implications of complete removal of charitable status would mean for Scottish education, the public purse and other charitable bodies.  In the meantime, we will get on with delivering the best possible education to young people from Scotland and beyond.”

Thursday 14 December: GOVERNMENT RESPONSE TO BARCLAY REVIEW - STATEMENT

"For mainstream schools the announcement today is, pure and simple, a backwards step by the Scottish Government – taken against advice and evidence from many quarters.  Rates relief - rejected both in principle and in substance by today’s announcement - is part and parcel of a unique public benefit test that was created unanimously by the Scottish Parliament and focussed specifically at independent schools.  The changes schools have made since 2006 to merit that relief amount to more than £200 million alone in means-tested fee assistance to Scottish pupils, alongside very extensive facilities, resources and staff provision for communities, public bodies, and state schools...." read more

Boy in class

scis photo boys on computers

August & September 2017 - SCIS letters to Cabinet Secretary on Barclay Review of Business Rates 

"In advance of the Scottish Government forming its response to the recent Review of Business Rates, the schools and staff in the independent sector are very concerned that the Report contains some fundamental misunderstandings and discrepancies.  We would welcome the opportunity to address these with you and your staff at the first opportunity, as they form the premise for proposals which would – through unintended consequences - have a significant detrimental effect on the sector and the educational profile of Scotland as a whole.  On this issue, as in all others facing Scotland’s schools, teachers and young people, the independent sector is determined to work together to be part of any solution, alongside partners in government, parliament, education bodies, regulators and beyond." Read more - August September

October 2017 - SCIS response to Sunday Herald "swindle" article  

SCIS made this response to an article in the Sunday Herald of 15 October - the headline of which was changed online subsequently.  Original article / SCIS response.

Tuesday 22 August: Response to Barclay Review of Non-Domestic Rates

“The findings of the Barclay Review run completely contrary to the charity test the Scottish Parliament required all schools to undertake; would put Scottish education at a competitive disadvantage in the UK and globally; would substantially impact the work schools can do on offering bursaries and other community provision; and would set independent schools aside from all other charities - for no sound legal, political, educational or economic reason.  Most of all, for a rates review, they would most likely cost the Scottish taxpayer and Government more than they seek to raise.”  Read More...

Scis book shelf

tennis ball

Thursday 28 April 2016: Economic Impact of SCIS Member Schools on the Scottish Economy

The report by Biggar Economics will highlight the fact that independent schools in Scotland generated £455.7 million Gross Value Added for the Scottish Economy in 2015 and supported over 10,500 jobs. The report also details the wider assistance to communities that schools provide through facilities and educational opportunities. Read More

Wednesday 7 September: SCIS Exam Results

SCIS exam candidates have achieved top grades in this year’s exam results with 1 in 6  candidates at a SCIS School achieving three or more A grades at Higher.

  • This year’s results from SCIS schools show that 68% of National 5 entries were awarded an A grade (36.5% nationally)
  • 92.3% of candidates in a SCIS school sitting Higher achieved a pass of which 55.3% achieved A grade
  • 93% of Advanced Higher entries from a SCIS school achieved a pass of which 53.3% gained an A grade

Read More

Media Enquiries

John Edward, Director: E: john@scis.org.uk, Tel: 0131 556 2316  M: 07973 489 292

Alison Herbert, Deputy Director, External Relations: E: alisonh@scis.org.uk Tel: 0131 556 2316,   M: 07717 791 921