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Civitas launches new Commission on the Future for Independent Schools

Civitas, January 2024

Civitas has begun work on a major commission on the future for independent schools in England.

Independent schools are a significant piece of our national educational infrastructure, teaching 6.5% of school pupils in England; and one whose role has changed significantly over the centuries during which they have existed. Because of this, we want to take an in-depth look at what the future holds for these schools.

Heavily politicised media coverage can come at the expense of an accurate understanding of the independent schools sector. The data on independent schools show a different, more diverse picture to the stereotypical image which is often the focus of discussions. Most are day schools, rather than boarding; most are co-educational rather than single-sex; and a large majority serve a local area rather than being nationally or internationally famous. It is also less well-known that many independent schools are very small, and many provide some form of specialist education. According to the Department for Education, over half of all registered independent schools have fewer than 150 pupils; and one in five independent school pupils has special educational needs.

We are hoping to contribute to the public debate by providing a balanced and in-depth review of independent schools and their role in England today, as well as a constructive long-term vision for their future.

Our research for this report will involve consultation with experts from a wide range of perspectives, as well as nationally representative opinion polling to understand in detail how independent schools are seen by the public. We are pleased to have a panel of commissioners with a broad range of expertise in the education sector advising us in this work.

This is a long-term project, with publication planned for the second half of 2024.

The terms of reference for this project can be read here.

Daniel Lilley is a researcher at Civitas leading on the Commission on the future for independent schools. Ellen Pasternack is research and communications manager at Civitas.


The Commission is formed of: Edward Davies (Policy Director, The Centre for Social Justice); Jodh Dhesi (Chief Executive Officer of the King Edward VI Foundation, Birmingham); John Edward (Head of Operations of the Scottish Council on Global Affairs, former Director of the Scottish Council of Independent Schools); Unity Jones (Director of Insights and Innovation, Academies Enterprise Trust); Barney Northover (Partner at VWV, specialising in strategic and governance advice for schools); Professor Dame Alison Peacock (CEO of the Chartered College of Teaching); and Diana Young (Writer & PR consultant).


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