The number of pupils at independent day schools is rising fast, mainly at the pre-school and primary ages, according to the latest figures from the Independent Schools Information Service.
Day pupil numbers at ISIS schools were at an all-time record of more than 400,000 in January, up 2.4 per cent on the previous year. They rose by nearly 5 per cent at the nursery and nearly 4 per cent at the primary stage; only in the early secondary years (11 to 15) was there a slight drop.
Boarding numbers continued to decline but the drop of 2.4 per cent on the previous year, to 75,400, was as small as last year's and the second lowest reduction ISIS has recorded. But for the East Asian economic crisis, it would have been even smaller.
Overall, there were nearly 480,000 pupils in the 1,306 schools belonging to ISIS when the census was conducted in January this year. (ISIS schools account for 80 per cent of all pupils in the independent sector.) Numbers in the schools completing census returns in both 1997 and 1998 rose by 1.6 per cent.
Fee rises averaged 5.2 per cent, the same as in 1997 and well down on the 10-12 per cent rises common in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Nearly one third of pupils now receive some form of fee assistance.