There are many reasons why parents choose to send their child to an independent school and while the location is often key, a school’s reputation for music or STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics), or its excellent sports facilities, for example, golf and equestrian.

With timetables that are designed to balance academic studies with co-curricular activity including sport and music, independent schools offer many benefits. But what all of Scotland’s independent schools do is provide excellence and innovation in education, and strive to instil a love of learning, confidence, curiosity, and values that will stay with them throughout their life.

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Generations of farming folk have sent their children to independent schools across Scotland because as well as providing a first-rate education in a place that offers a rich mix of experiences – both academic and extra-curricular – in a safe, secure environment, they attract dedicated teachers and benefit from smaller class sizes.

The benefits of smaller class sizes are widespread but specifically, they allow teachers to get to know each pupil well and, as a result, understand a child’s needs and interests as they develop their skills and confidence, grow to enjoy learning, and develop an ability to think creatively and problem solve.

Every child deserves the best possible education and start in life – and independent schools share this vision by encouraging children to be resilient, confident, enterprising, and caring, attributes that are central to the aims and ambitions of all independent schools as they help pupils flourish, shape their character, and challenge them to develop themselves in all aspects of life, both inside and outside the classroom.

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Challenging pupils to developing themselves in all aspects of life, both inside and outside the classroom, is something all independent schools are committed to – they also benefit from state-of-the-art facilities and equipment.

According to the most recent data (2022) from the Scottish Council of Independent Schools (SCIS), there are 19 mainstream boarding schools in Scotland with 2,745 pupils – 40% of boarders are from overseas. In addition, the independent sector employs over 3,549 teaching staff and there is one teacher for every eight pupils in SCIS schools.

Many parents dismiss even considering the possibility of send their child to an independent school because they believe that the fees are prohibitive. However, the 2022 survey by the SCIS revealed that its members provide at least £55 million annually in fee assistance, with 24.9% of all pupils receiving some form of assistance. In addition, 3.1% of senior school pupils receive 100% fee assistance.

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For all independent schools – including those featured in this special report – there is great pride in the way they nurture students of all ages within a safe, inspiring environment where they can learn, stretch their imagination, gain leadership and life skills, understand the benefits of teamwork, and boost their confidence.

Independent schools also celebrate diversity and foster an environment where children from different backgrounds, cultures, and countries can come together, feel comfortable, and be themselves.

Access to the great outdoors is an aspect of independent education that appeals to both pupils and parents, with many schools believing that this is crucial to giving a child an overall experience. It can also help shape the individuals who will go on to become the leaders, role models, and entrepreneurs of tomorrow, be that in business, sport, the arts, music, science, and more.

Exam choices can also be tailored to best suit the individual child. SCIS schools offer a wide range of subjects with the added flexibility of being able to take a mix of qualifications from different examination boards, including Scottish Qualifications Authority exams, GCSEs, A-levels, and the International Baccalaureate.

Which school to choose? There are day schools with options to board, schools that cater for children throughout their education – from the age of two to 18 – and there are schools in towns and cities, and in beautiful countryside locations where the scenery is an inspiration for both pupils and staff.

Each offer something unique and special – but all of them have the best interests of you and your family at their core. Getting a feel for the school is important and you’ll be able to quickly assess if it is the right environment for your child. All schools are keen to discuss with parents and prospective pupils the benefits of an independent education at their institution and welcome informal chats and visits in addition to holding open days throughout the year.