The number of pupils attending Scotland’s independent schools has fallen for the eighth year in a row, dropping from 32,065 in 2007 to 30,238 this year.
Overall, 4.3 per cent of pupils in Scotland attend an independent school, according to figures published today by the Scottish Council of Independent Schools (SCIS), which represents 72 private schools.
The statistics come after figures released earlier this year showed the number of private school pupils in the UK as a whole was at its highest since records began 40 years ago – boosted by overseas pupils.
The Scotland analysis also shows that more than a quarter of private-school pupils received some form of financial assistance this year, up from 20 per cent last year.
Scottish independent schools now spend £47 million helping pupils with their fees, an increase of £2 million on last year’s total and almost double the 2009 figure. A total of 644 pupils benefit from fully funded places, with 3.2 per cent of all senior school mainstream pupils now on 100 per cent fee assistance.
Private schools have increased the numbers of bursaries given to pupils who cannot afford their fees since they came under the scrutiny of the charities regulator, OSCR, which warned that offering means-tested support was the key to retaining charitable status.
A total of 52 schools in Scotland have charitable status which can help them to reduce their tax bills.
The regulator looked at the schools one by one to ensure they were doing enough to justify their status, and ultimately they all passed the charity test.
However, OSCR has said independent schools will have to continue to prove their worth to keep claiming charitable status.
SCIS director John Edward said: “The current debate in Scottish education is focused on attainment and making the most of what works well. Nothing exemplifies these better than the continuing interest of parents and pupils in the independent sector, where what matters is what works for each individual pupil.
"Thanks to the biggest widening access scheme in Scotland, more families than ever are coming to the sector for the first time, drawn by the individual opportunity that choice and diversity in education can bring.”