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SCIS has several roles in representing the Independent Sector

  • Provide detailed information and guidance to policy-makers
  • Represent the sector on a range of public bodies and groupings
  • Assist and support parental decisions on schools - see our page on How to Choose a School 
  • Provide authoritative research and intelligence about the sector -  see the Facts & Figures section
  • Promote the sector through media and other communications activity
  • Highlighting the obligations of the Scottish charity test on schools


The Scottish Council of Independent Schools (SCIS) is engaged in a range of public information and public affairs work, working with the Scottish Government and public bodies to advance education and the particular issues relating to mainstream day and boarding schools, and to independent Additional Support Needs schools. SCIS liaises with Government departments, public bodies and educational groups, making an active contribution to curriculum development, the training of teachers and the development of teaching skills.

SCIS staff and subject specialists in many member schools serve on education committees and organise national conferences for the benefit of teachers in both local authority and independent schools.  Many teachers in independent senior schools work as markers for the SQA public exam system. In these and other ways, the independent school sector in Scotland shares experience and expertise, to advance education.

Representing the Sector

SCIS sits on a range of Government, educational, health and statutory bodies including:

Media and Communications

SCIS liaises regularly with Scottish and U.K. media, responding to enquiries about the independent schools sector in Scotland and promoting new developments. An archive of recent press releases is available on our Media page.

Meeting the charity test

In 2018, Scotland's independent schools gave over £50 million financial assistance to widen access.

All independent schools offer financial assistance, most commonly in the form of means tested awards, granted on the basis of financial need. The level of financial support can vary considerably, from a free place (where 100% of the fees are met by the school) to awards worth around 20% of the fees.

Charitable status of independent schools has attracted, and still attracts, a great deal of public scrutiny and rightly so. All of the c.24,000 registered charities in Scotland need to demonstrate that they uphold and extend their charitable purposes. The independent school sector has undergone the most rigorous scrutiny since the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator (OSCR) started work.  The debate in the Scottish Parliament, which led to the 2005 Act created the toughest test of charitable status anywhere in the UK and, in reality, anywhere in the world.

Since the introduction of the charity test in November 2006, almost half of the charities reviewed in Scotland have been independent schools, some of which include more than 1 school. This has been an in-depth, complex and exhaustive process; describing a considerable learning curve for both sides, and the decisions bear close reading. 

Independent schools are charities because they fulfil purposes for the public benefit. They are no different to other educational charities, such as further education colleges or universities, and enjoy no treatment which is different or special when compared to other charities. In December 2014 OSCR produced a final briefing on the completion of the charity test.

“Education is not merely by and for the sake of thought, it is in a still higher degree by and for the sake of action.  Just as the man of science must think and experiment alternately, so too must artist, author and scholar alternate creation or study with participation in the life around them.  For it is only by thinking things out as one lives them, and living things out as one thinks them, that a man or society can really be said to think or even live at all.”

- Sir Patrick Geddes, 1895