One of the many benefits of the independent school system is the sector’s independence from local authorities and government control. This means that schools can be innovative and experimental with their curriculum, which, in turn, enables them to better meet the needs of individual pupils. Independent Schools Council (ISC) schools stand out from the crowd because they offer a broad, comprehensive curriculum.
Renowned for their high academic standards, independent schools are consistently among the best performing in the UK. In 2017, exam results showed that half of our A-levels were graded A* and A, whilst at GCSE, A* and A grades were three times higher in independent schools than the national average. Independent schools continue to support many subjects that are now vulnerable in the state sector – Latin, Greek, music, modern languages, and history of art for example. In fact, these are subjects which can sometimes be unavailable outside of the independent school sector.
Sport is another area about which independent schools have much to be proud. A third of Britain’s medallists in the last two Olympic Games were educated in independent schools. With activities ranging from hockey and rugby, to wall climbing and sailing – most schools have something for everyone. Many schools provide scholarships for keen sportspeople, enabling pupils from all walks of life to be given opportunities to train and be coached by elite performers and, often, ex athletes.
There are a range of artistic opportunities on offer at independent schools, with many possessing top level facilities, which provide the perfect platform for young actors, musicians and performers to flourish and strengthen their creative talents. Involvement in the arts is a fantastic way for pupils to gain confidence, communication skills and ambition.
Schools understand the importance of ensuring their school curriculum also focusses on non-academic achievement and the development of ‘soft skills’. Research carried out in association with AQR International has analysed the value added by independent schools to “soft skills”. It concluded that pupils at ISC schools have good attainment, wellbeing and behaviour and are more resilient, better at dealing with setbacks and more open to learning as a result.
Independent schools also other activities such as CCF training and debating classes. Developing skills like leadership, compassion and resilience gives pupils a more balanced outlook on school life, and beyond, as well as a more rounded education.
Involvement with the wider community is an essential part of many schools’ ethos. Community work and school partnerships include volunteering, visiting local residential homes, engaging with those who are vulnerable and partnering with local schools to share lessons, facilities and, most importantly, make new friends and form new social circles. Community outreach gives pupils an understanding of the value of community, the importance of respect for others and a sense of responsibility.
Independent schools’ freedom from a statutory curriculum allows pupils more independence to learn and think, to grow in confidence and to engage with life outside the school walls – all of which provide an excellent preparation for later life.