From the elite and imperious Hogwarts, to frivolous frolics of St Trinian’s, popular culture has done a great deal to help people form a peculiar and distinctly coloured idea of what an independent school is like. Elite, exclusive, unwelcoming… with some the image of independent schools as crusty old insular institutions endures to this day.
But is it in any way fair?
According to the Scottish Council of Independent Schools, behind Scottish Council of Independent Schools) independent schools are far more accessible and inclusive than many might think.
Here, we dispel the myths surrounding the image of independent schools.
Forget what you think you know about independent schools – you could be mis-informed. Here we sort the fact from the fiction.
Myth: They’re for rich families
Reality: Children from all kinds of backgrounds attend an independent schools, and schools are sensitive to the sacrifices many parents make in order to afford their child’s school fees.
In Scotland, a quarter of the children attending independent schools receive financial assistance with three per cent having all of their fees met by the school. Bursaries are available to assist families with lower incomes, while scholarships are awarded to children who have demonstrated outstanding academic, sporting or artistic potential, or general excellence.
Myth: They don’t encourage children to be part of community
Reality: Many Scottish independent schools have working relationships with voluntary organisations, which pupils volunteer, raise awareness and fundraise for.
Some have educational projects in far-flung countries like Africa and beyond, again working to encourage children to contribute to the world around them.
Pupils are also encouraged to take part in extra-curricular activities that ensure they have a feel for the real world, too, such as community service, the Duke of Edinburgh award and outdoor education.
Myth: They’re for very clever kids
Reality: Independent schools are renowned for having a high level of academic attainment and for a high percentage of pupils going on to university. But that by no means limits the school’s attendees to the academically gifted.
A wide variety of subjects are available at a number of levels, from Latin, to drama, politics to computer science, meaning children can thrive in whatever field they display a passion or aptitude for.
Additionally, being able to achieve qualifications from a variety of examination boards, including Scottish Qualifications Authority exams, GCSEs, A-levels and the International Baccalaureate, is an egalitarian means of encouraging pupils towards success: it allows greater scope for them to turn their interests into qualifications.
Myth: They’re rugby playing boy clubs.
Reality: 49 per cent of all independent school attendees are girls.
And while you can certainly play rugby at independent schools if you want to, it is by no means mandatory or the only extra-curricular activity available. There are a myriad of sports and activities on offer, from handball to mountain-biking, golf to skiing and some that you’d struggle to find elsewhere.
Parents are often surprised to learn many independent schools have very strong football teams.
Past-times are not limited to sports, either. Many creative activities are available, from orchestras, drama clubs, musical theatre, to all manner of societies.
Myth: They’re elitist and lack diversity
Reality: You may well end up with a more diverse culture mix at an independent school: a third of the pupils at independent boarding schools in Scotland are overseas students, hailing from Spain, Germany, Russia, China, among others. There are students and teachers of all ethnic and religious backgrounds. This makes for a vibrant, modern community that reflects the real world and encourages tolerance and understanding of differing cultures.
To find out more about independent schools in Scotland, visit www.scis.org.uk