Good show! Public schools resist recession

2nd October 2009 at 01:00
Increase in rolls and fees of independents proves economists' bleak forecasts wrong, HMC survey reveals

The organisation that represents Britain's top 250 public schools has released figures which appear to show that independents such as Eton and Winchester are riding out the recession without significant financial damage.

The Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference (HMC) survey shows a small increase in fees and rolls at the beginning of this school year. Pupil numbers are up 0.6 per cent on 200708, while fees have risen above the rate of inflation by 3.4 per cent. This figure shows a small stabalisation following the increase in 200708 of 5.9 per cent upon the previous year.

Many education economists had warned that the full impact of the recession on the independent sector would only be felt last month, with predictions that parents would pull their children out of private schools as redundancies and employment pay-freezes took their toll.

Geoff Lucas, HMC secretary, said the statistics showed that the reports had exaggerated the danger, with 93 per cent of heads claiming their schools were in a strong position to withstand the recession.

"The survey results are pretty good - when you think of the stories that have been running (about independent schools closing), these show that we are buoyant," he said.

"People were saying that the proof would be in the pudding this September, but the beginning of this (school) year has been translated into real pupils.

"I suspect the rest of the (independent) sector would be different. The thing about our schools is that they are adaptable and are fighters."

Mr Lucas insisted there had never been a significant danger of a high-profile public school going under.

"There are other factors at play that make them attractive," he said.

"And, as Andrew Grant (HMC chairman) has previously said, 'These schools survived the dissolution of the monasteries, the recession isn't going to get them.'"

The results were based on responses from 155 schools (63 per cent), constituting a representative cross-section of day and boarding schools across the UK and Ireland.

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