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Press Release & Statements

18 August 2023

Celebrating 100% Success 

The Scottish Council of Independent Schools (SCIS) is celebrating a one hundred per cent pass rate by its pupils who were entered for National 2 SQA qualifications by its specialist schools this year.

The pass rate is an increase of 37.5 per cent on the National 2 qualifications achieved at SCIS schools last year. The pass rate at National 3 also increased from 77.3 per cent last year to 90.3 per cent this year.

SCIS represents more than 20 specialist schools across Scotland, which support children and young people with significant and complex needs. 

SCIS Chief Executive Lorraine Davidson added: ”Every learner who gains an SQA qualification deserves strong recognition. However, the young people in our specialist schools who have achieved great things, often against the odds, merit special congratulations. There is no greater success worth celebrating than theirs.”

East Park school in Glasgow is today holding a special start of term assembly to mark the achievements of their learners, including those who achieved National 1 qualifications.

The school’s Director Kieron O’Brien said: “East Park ambitiously seeks collectively, collaboratively and cohesively better outcomes for all it’s children and young people through a process of individual assessment, plans and actions that are skilfully implemented by the staff and these achievements celebrated today are evidence of that.”

Capability Scotland has two specialist schools Corseford in Johnstone and Stanmore House in Lanark. A Spokesperson for Capability Scotland said: “Our multidisciplinary approach works to break down any barriers which exist for disabled people, enabling them to participate in learning and reach their goals. For some, this is being accredited with national qualifications and a variety of wider achievement awards such as John Muir, Duke of Edinburgh, Junior Award Scheme for Schools to name a few.  As for everyone, awards and achievements bring a sense of pride and can be a catalyst for motivating our young people to further achieve and move into positive post school destinations.  The holistic approach to learning enhances the health and wellbeing of all our young people within school and beyond.”

Background on National 2 and 3 SQA qualifications: qualifications National 1 and National 2 - SQA



For Further information email SCIS

Or call 0131 556 2316

6 July 2023


The Scottish Council of Independent Schools (SCIS) welcomes the EDSK report, which recognises our positive practices and the beneficial impact of the independent school sector in Scotland. 

In Scotland, the charity test has been diligently applied and has proven the value our schools provide to society, incentivising a huge increase in wider access to our schools. The inclusion of a 'public benefit' criterion specific to England would further enhance this contribution while ensuring that any conditions, such as school fees, are not unduly restrictive. 

To learn more about why Scottish Independent Schools have charitable status, see:

8 June 2023


The Scottish Council of Independent Schools (SCIS) has appointed Lorraine Davidson, Head of Education Strategy at the Scottish Government, as its new Chief Executive. 

Lorraine will succeed John Edward, who announced his departure from SCIS in February 2023 after 14 years at the organisation. Lorraine will start the new position in July.  

Previously the Head of Communications for the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service, and prior to that Head of Corporate Communications for NHS Health Scotland, Lorraine is highly adept in strategy development, corporate communication, and crisis management. Earlier in her career, Lorraine was a political correspondent for STV, the BBC and The Times. This accomplished portfolio of work placed her as an ideal candidate for the position at SCIS.

Alan Hartley, Chair of SCIS, said of the new appointment:

“We are thrilled to welcome Lorraine to SCIS as our new Chief Executive following a rigorous recruitment process. Lorraine is a dynamic, passionate leader, with a proven track record in strategy development and stakeholder management. SCIS looks forward to seeing Lorraine build on the success of her predecessor to support the charity’s ambitions and continue supporting the needs of our member schools.”

Lorraine commented:

“I am extremely proud to be joining SCIS as the new Chief Executive, and I am looking forward to visiting the member schools and getting to know the staff.

“SCIS has an outstanding reputation and I am keen to leverage my skills and experience to support the sector at a challenging time and in the strong contribution it makes to Scottish education."

4 August 2020

SQA certification results

The SQA has released the certification results for independent schools, following the cancellation of the 2020 examination diet.

Scotland’s independent schools achieved 95% of National 5, 94% of Higher and 94% of Advanced Higher A-C passes across all subjects.

Commenting on the announcement, John Edward, Director of SCIS, said: “Congratulations to all students in Scotland receiving their SQA results today. Despite the unprecedented challenges this year has brought, all pupils and schools should rightly be proud of what they have achieved.

It is particularly encouraging to see so many of our pupils flourish in languages. Languages provide young people with enhanced communication and adaptability skills, a deeper cultural awareness, as well as opening up a world of job opportunities which means that providing children with the opportunity to learn a new language from a younger age is paramount.  82% of students achieved a Higher grade A in Mandarin, while 88% of those studying German, 81% of those studying French and 70% studying Spanish also achieved an A.

Higher results for students across Scotland’s independent schools include:

  • 56% achieved a grade A in English; 94% achieved an A-C pass
  • 61% achieved a grade A in Maths; 91% achieved an A-C pass
  • 55% achieved a grade A in Physics; 94% achieved an A-C pass
  • 59% achieved a grade A in Chemistry; 94% achieved an A-C pass
  • 59% achieved a grade A in Biology; 92% achieved an A-C pass

Edward concluded: “Under a unique set of circumstances and challenges, Scotland’s independent sector continued this year to demonstrate dedication, energy and expertise in providing choice, diversity and excellence for Scotland’s young people.”

19 June 2020

The independent sector is teaching now, and will be ready for the new year in August. 

The shared commitment between families, pupils and schools is strong.  Whether you attend on 100% fee assistance or none, schools simply want to expose young people to the most diverse and engaging educational experiences they can offer.

Our children and young people have been undertaking a meaningful and diverse range of online and distance learning since physical closures in March.  Participation has been encouragingly high.

The focus now shifts, rightly, to getting as many pupils back into schools as is safely possible, after 11 August.  Schools have been working creatively, without break, to prepare facilities that combine learning needs with public health guidelines.  Many schools are confident that they can welcome all their pupils back in to school - with innovative use of staff resources rooms and halls, and outdoor facilities.  Many more will combine that with an ongoing distance provision - with some pupils following the same lessons live from home.

We are immensely proud of the teachers, non-teaching staff, governors, families and - in particular - pupils that have faced this unique challenge with ingenuity, resilience and insatiable curiosity.

2 June 2023


“The announcement of the closure of Kilgraston School is devastating news for the pupils, their families and staff who have worked so hard to create a world-class learning environment (1) where girls have flourished since 1930 (2).

“SCIS will provide every support and assistance to staff and pupils to find alternative places to learn and work where they will continue to thrive as they did at Kilgraston.

“Kilgraston’s closure is a stark reminder of the financial pressure independent schools face, notwithstanding the impact of political measures – current and proposed – which treat independent schools separate from all other not-for-profit bodies. (3,4)”

1. In 2022, compared to a national average of 80.8% achieving Grades A to C at National 5 level, Kilgraston pupils obtained a pass rate of 93% with 70% achieving Grade As at this level.  In Higher and Advanced Higher levels, over three-quarters of pupils achieved a Grade A or B.
2. For Kilgraston Sixth Form leavers in 2022,  96% went to their first or second choice of university with over half going on to study STEM subjects including 7% of Kilgraston leavers studying medicine.
3. In its test of public benefit, the Scottish Charity Regulator concluded that Kilgraston "provided evidence of a high level of benefit for which it makes little or no charge... These activities provide benefit to the wider providing access to its services and facilities."  The school spent over 10% of its gross income on means-tested bursary provisions.
4. In 2019, the Scottish Parliament voted to remove non-domestic rates relief from independent schools uniquely out of 25,000 registered charitable bodies in Scotland

20 May 2020


Join us in Publicly Thanking School Leaders, Teachers & Other School Staff

Our letter to The Times for National Thank a Teacher Day (May 20)
Signed by 21 leaders working in/with the education sector

Dear Sir,
School leaders are facing complex and challenging issues during the coronavirus crisis. They have made and continue to make difficult decisions and risk assessments: about when and how to teach and remain in touch with pupils and parents; about whether they can safely continue to look after the children of key workers or re-open; and about how to ensure the wellbeing of their staff.

Teachers have worked long hours to deliver distance lessons from home, often in highly innovative ways. Many have gone to great lengths to keep in touch with and support pupils, including those from disadvantaged backgrounds. Others have shown great ingenuity in considering what a return to physical school might look like, and in coming up with plans to make that work and recover lost ground. Many schools have also donated or are making PPE, as well as ensuring that basic food supplies continue to reach families most in need.

Each school has its own community with its own specific challenges. National Thank a Teacher Day (May 20) is a time to celebrate teachers across the country; we ask you and your readers to join us in publicly acknowledging and thanking school leaders, teachers and all other school staff for their contribution during this difficult time.

Yours faithfully,

Geoff Barton, General Secretary, Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL)
Colin Bell, CEO, Council of British International Schools (COBIS)
Vivienne Durham, Chief Executive, Girls’ Schools Association (GSA)
John Edward, Director, Scottish Council of Independent Schools (SCIS)
Robin Fletcher, Chief Executive, Boarding Schools’ Association (BSA)
Cheryl Giovannoni, Chief Executive, The Girls’ Day School Trust (GDST)
Dr Maureen Glackin, General Secretary, Catholic Independent Schools’ Conference CISC)
Richard Harman, Chief Executive, The Association of Governing Bodies of Independent Schools (AGBIS)
Christopher King, CEO, Independent Association of Preparatory Schools (IAPS)
Elizabeth Kitcatt, Joint President, Association of State Girls’ Schools (ASGS)
Steve Munby, Chair, Teaching Awards Trust
Professor Dame Alison Peacock, CEO, Chartered College of Teaching
Ian Power, General Secretary, Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference (HMC)
Clive Rickart, CEO, The Society of Heads
Julie Robinson, CEO, Independent Schools Council (ISC)
Neil Roskilly, Chief Executive, Independent Schools Association (ISA)
James Turner, CEO, The Sutton Trust
Emma Verrier, CEO, Welsh Independent Schools Council (WISC)
Violet Walker, Joint President, Association of State Girls’ Schools (ASGS)
Carl Ward, Chair, Foundation for Education Development (FED)
David Woodgate, Chief Executive, Independent Schools’ Bursars Association (ISBA)

Monday 20 April

Independent Schools Rise to the Challenge

“Despite the challenges we all face, the absolute priority for independent schools continues to be the safety, wellbeing and ongoing education of children as part of the nation’s education provision.”

 “Schools have been executing plans for the continuity of education, primarily through online teaching. While there are challenges in doing this effectively with the very youngest children, we are seeing many examples of schools achieving meaningful learning for pupils.

 “Independent schools tend to be not-for-profits and rarely have large reserves or significant operating surpluses to fall back on. They are doing all they can to make savings in order to offer fee reductions to families but the ability of the school to make such offers varies greatly. Schools are encouraging parents to have a conversation with them about fees where they have their own cash flow issues and some have already declared a freeze on the fees for the start of the next academic year.

 “By supporting one another, and with time and patience, we will get through this together.”

Background information:

The annual fee charged by independent schools has traditionally been divided into three termly instalments. All schools have significant fixed costs with about two thirds of expenditure being on staff salaries. Contrary to some perceptions, most independent schools do not have significant financial reserves and crucially cash at hand. Where savings in expenditure against budget for example, on food not purchased for school meals, many schools have passed this on to parents with a fee reduction.

The ability of the school to make such offers varies greatly but schools are trying to be as fair as possible to parents, in the hope parents will be fair to them. In doing so, it will allow the schools to pick up full time education when we are allowed to return in no time at all, because they will have retained their staff.

The independent school sector has repeatedly demonstrated its resilience over the years and no doubt will do through this current Covid-19 crisis, providing we all support one another. Clear, reasoned communication with parents is so important at the moment. We are all in this together, and together we can come out the other side, returning to classrooms ready to resume normal service.

5 February 2020

SCIS statement on the passing of the Non-Domestic Rates (Scotland) Bill

The 30,000 families, more than 3,000 teachers and more than 3,000 non-teaching staff in the independent sector have been left in no doubt over the support, or otherwise, they can count on.

Any cursory post-legislative scrutiny would have shown Parliament the genuine success of the 2005 Charity Act and its unique public benefit test.  A widening access, means-tested bursary programme has grown that is now equal per capita to the HE sector - but one that is paid for without a penny of work of public money.  The circumstances that OSCR considered to judge that work are now being withdrawn.  That separates 50 not-for-profit bodies from the other 24,771 Scottish charities that receive automatic rates relief, 12,769 of which also have “the advancement of education” as their charitable purpose.

The independent sector will keep doing what it does best - for pupils from across Scotland, from all backgrounds, from all political persuasions and none.  That is delivering Scotland’s highest attainment, keeping subject choice as wide as possible at all levels, exporting Scottish education to the wider world, bringing pupils from over 50 countries to this country, and making real change to lives in their extra-curricular offer, public service and well-being agendas.

If community groups, families, employers, partners in the state sector and the wider economy lose some of the support and partnerships that have been developed over the years; the dismissal of the many concerns they raised in this process will remind them why.

5 December


The removal of charitable rates relief from September 2020 for the independent schools sector will have a negative impact on the schools, their family community, their public benefit commitment and on the Scottish economy. 

Speaking on behalf of the Scottish Council for Independent Schools (SCIS), the charity representing private and independent schools in Scotland, Director John Edward said: “The removal of charitable rates relief is estimated to cost the sector £7 million a year and the only way schools can realistically finance a spending hike of up to six figures per year is to increase their school fees or cut back on the widening participation provisions they have been increasing, at the specific request of the Scottish Parliament.  No other set of organisations in Scotland is seeing such a precipitous tax-rise in such a short period.  Worse still, the aim of the overall Bill is supposedly to make Scotland “more” competitive.

“What policy-makers have failed to consider is the wider economic, educational and social contribution the independent sector has on Scotland, including young people benefiting from partial or full fee assistance.  Furthermore, the schools’ charitable remits extends to sharing facilities with the local community and neighbourhood state schools. This may well have to be frozen if schools’ budgets become over-stretched due to the cost of paying the same rates as commercial businesses, despite being not-for-profit bodies.

“The reality is independent schools exist to provide parents with an educational and pastoral choice for their children and this fivefold tax hike in a few months’ time will result in this choice being reduced – to no-one’s benefit.”

4th October

Non-Domestic Rates (Scotland) Bill

Following the report of the Local Government and Communities Committee on the the Non-Domestic Rates (Scotland) Bill, John Edward – Director of the support body for Scotland’s independent schools – has commented:

It will be a source of real concern that the views of hundreds of respondents - schools, parents, trustees, professional bodies - have carried no weight in the Committee's considerations.

It is more worrying still for schools that the constructive and honest responses about the impact of the Bill on school activities, given both in a schools visit and in oral evidence, have not been taken on board.  Schools’ preparedness for an increase, in less than a year of five times the rates they pay has been ignored, and they have been provided no opportunity to revalue their current rating. The Finance Committee also heard that the Bill contained no information regarding any potential additional costs to local authorities.

Perhaps most troubling, the official Charity Regulator gave clear evidence on the divisive and retrograde potential of the proposals in Scotland's not-for-profit sector.

Independent schools operate at no cost to the taxpayer, attain at the highest level, have been undertaking a widening access programme - at Holyrood's behest - for 15 years, and contribute many times more in public benefit than any rates reduction.  Yet the myth persists that this proposal will have minimal effect on schools, but assuming the fivefold increase comes from gross school income – rather than what little is left to pay exceptional teachers and support staff, to maintain buildings and facilities, means test bursaries, and support classroom and extra-curricular learning

Taking away from one side of that formula can only detract from the other - and the Government has heard ample evidence of the real costs the proposals may have for Scotland in the future.  Those who have dismissed such warnings will have to accept that responsibility. Given what Kate Forbes has called the current “time of uncertainty”, it is not too late to consider some leeway for schools that the Minister only last month praised for their "important role" in Scotland.

23 September 2019

SCIS Responds to Labour Party Conference Vote to Abolish Independent Schools  - “Debate ignores how Scotland has done things differently”

John Edward, Director of Scottish Council for Independent Schools (SCIS) responds to the recent Labour Party Conference (21 September) vote on abolishing independent schools, by asking policymakers to redirect the current debate and follow Scotland’s lead.

SCIS - an educational umbrella group - promotes choice, diversity and excellence in Scottish education, representing more than 70 independent schools. Speaking following the decision taken at the UK Labour Party Conference to pass a motion calling for the eventual abolition of independent schools, John Edward, Director of SCIS, said:

 “Even a cursory glance at the sector in Scotland, and developments since devolution would show anyone in the UK how different this debate can be, and how much can change without abolishing the sector.

 “In 2005, the Scottish Parliament passed unanimously what remains a unique, formal test of public benefit for independent schools. Schools’ charitable status.   Designed by a Labour-Lib Dem coalition government and established by law, the test has seen means-tested fee assistance become the default for schools, with the overall amount more than tripling to over £30 million per year.

 “At the same time, shared academic and sports resources, careers events, facilities, music and arts provision have all been audited to establish the place of independent schools in their communities. All of this widening of access has happened while schools continue to encourage high attainment and positive leaver destinations from pupils of all interests and abilities.

 “Rather than discussing the wholescale dismantling of a historic and complementary system, described by Scottish ministers as part of the “rich tapestry of Scottish education”, policymakers could look at what works, what is achievable, and what makes a genuine difference to young people’s lives.”


06 August 2019

Scotland’s independent schools excelling in STEM subjects as SQA results revealed

As SQA exam results are released this week, we can reveal that in Scotland’s independent schools, 62 percent of pupils studying mathematics have achieved a Higher grade A, with 91 percent achieving a grade A-C.

The data, collected from our member schools, also shows that 57 percent of students achieved a Higher grade A in Physics, while 62 percent studying Chemistry and 63 percent studying Biology also achieved an A, marking an improvement in results across all sciences, as well as mathematics, from 2018.

Commenting on the results, our director, John Edward, said: “Huge congratulations to everyone in Scotland receiving their SQA results today.

 “I am once again delighted to see such an outstanding set of results from our member schools across the board, but it is particularly encouraging to see such strong results in STEM subjects given how critical they are to filling the emerging skills gap in science, engineering and technology jobs throughout the UK.”

 Other Higher results for students across our independent schools include:

  • 55 percent achieved a grade A in English; 95 percent achieved an A-C pass
  • 74 percent achieved a grade A in French; 97 percent achieved an A-C pass
  • 97 percent achieved a grade A in German; 98 percent achieved an A-C pass
  • 68 percent achieved a grade A in Spanish; 93 percent achieved an A-C pass
  • 83 percent achieved a grade A in Mandarin; 96 percent achieved an A-C pass

Edward concluded: “Regardless of the challenges thrown at them, Scotland’s independent schools have always maintained an extraordinarily high level of academic excellence and this year marks no exception.

 “Despite the proposed removal of rates relief and the uncertainty surrounding Brexit, among other economic and political challenges, our schools maintain a relentless focus on achieving the best for the young people entrusted to their care, which is once again reflected in another outstanding set of exam results.

 “At SCIS, we are incredibly proud to represent the sector as it continues to champion choice, diversity and excellence in education for Scotland’s young people.”

25 June 2019

SCIS response to Social Mobility Commission/Sutton Trust Report

The Elitist Britain 2019 Report is described as a detailed analysis of the educational background of business, political, media and public sector leaders in the UK.

While an interesting report on the public service leaver destinations of pupils in the United Kingdom, the Report makes no reference to political devolution over the last twenty years.

The Report looks at the UK Government and Opposition, the UK Parliament and local government in England.  However it makes no comparison with the Scottish Government or Parliament, Scottish local government, or with the National Assembly for Wales or Welsh Government.

In particular, the Report recommends  that independent schools "do more to increase number of pupils from lower socio-economic backgrounds" but makes no reference to the unique public benefit test applied to Scottish independent schools - specifically aimed at widening access through means-testing.

19 June 2019

Evidence to the Scottish Parliament on Non-Domestic Rates

SCIS, along with Hutchesons' Grammar School, St Mary's Preparatory School, Melrose, and OSCR gave evidence to the Scottish Parliament's Local Government and Communities Committee, on the implications for the independent sector of the proposed removal of mandatory non-domestic rates relief.

The oral evidence can be watched on Scottish Parliament TV and YouTube, and the transcript is available as well as full details of the Committee's inquiry into the Non-Domestic Rates (Scotland) Bill.

The Finance and Constitution Committee has also taken written evidence on the estimated financial implications of the Bill as set out in its accompanying Financial Memorandum.

1 May 2019

Why choice matters 

Comment from John Edward, Director at the Scottish Council of Independent Schools:

The Herald recently reported on findings by Reform Scotland that reveal a sharp reduction in the number of National 4 and 5s available in many of Scotland’s local authority schools, thereby narrowing subject choice for children.

“But why is subject choice so important? Having an interest in a subject makes the learning process enjoyable, promoting greater enthusiasm and interest in studying. 

“Many students are unsure of their desired career path and therefore it is important for schools to offer a wide range of subject choices, giving young people more options when it comes to leaving school.

“That’s why Scotland’s independent schools pride themselves on the variety of subjects they offer and work hard to ensure the independent curriculum is accessible to as many young people across Scotland as is possible through the provision of fee assistance. 

“In the last academic year, independent schools in Scotland have provided in excess of £51 million in fee assistance demonstrating the sector’s absolute commitment to widening access to curriculum choice in Scotland.

“The ethos of independent education is a broad cross-curricular approach to education, giving every student the wisest preparation for, and interest in, life. That’s why independent schools will continue to offer the widest possible subject choice to help prepare children for their futures and arm them with the skills and disciplines required to succeed in their futures, whatever that might be.”

28 March 2019

Independent schools at ‘competitive disadvantage’ - TES Scotland

Rates reform in Scotland singles out independent schools, says the body representing the sector

20 March 2019

Letter to The Guardian

Those working in the world of independent education are used to having many of society’s ills laid at their door. Adding Brexit to that pile is the daftest and most desperate yet. I should know. I am both director of the schools’ representative body in Scotland, but also a veteran of 25 years’ engagement with the EU and chief campaign spokesman for Scotland Stronger in Europe in 2016. The idea that the families, teachers, support staff and schools dotted around Scotland are complicit in any way in the purist fantasies of a couple of dozen far-right/left ideologues and their spivvish backers is as needlessly offensive as it is outdated and wide of the mark. You can ask many of them directly when they march through London on Saturday. It is notable – in these fraught and finger-pointing times – that no one (rightly) brings up the educational background of Davis, Fox, Stuart, Duncan Smith, Dorries, Stringer, Bridgen, Francois, Field, Leadsom, Baker, Patel etc.
John Edward
Director, Scottish Council of Independent Schools

2 March 2019

‘Decrying the independent sector doesn't help any child’

Wishing ill on the independent sector is offensive and will not help pupils in the state sector, says SCIS Director John Edward.

13 February 2019

Response to Guardian editorial

As your editorial (“Motors of unfairness”, 12 February) points out, the debate on independent schools has been active for at least 50 years. (We say “independent” because we are autonomous, but not-for-profit).

A lot has changed in the worlds since then, and it is only fair to recognise that that world includes the devolved UK.

Since 2006, schools in Scotland have been answerable to a specific test of public benefit, by the independent charity regulator.  Means-tested fee assistance has more than tripled (giving higher education, per capita, a run for its money) and schools have modernised and extended their relations with local authority schools and communities.  Sharing of subject teachers and specialist instructors is matched by opening of facilities and extra-curricular provision, while staff support both the national qualification and inspection regimes.  As you rightly point out, these registered charities are  - exclusively - also about to lose non-domestic rates relief – something Wales is now considering.

The debate requires honesty about how the state will pay for the additional pupils and schools restrictions elsewhere would produce.  It also requires honesty from a national newspaper about the diverse approaches of education already underway across the UK.

Yours sincerely,

John Edward



23 January 2019

Reply to opinion piece in The National

Dear Editor

A modern and vibrant Scotland needs all the debate it can cope with.  It needs all the views it can accommodate.  It also needs to separate fact from .

Had Kevin McKenna written his piece (“Elite schools for the privileged do so much to maintain ills in our society”, 23 January), about any other group of parents and young people in Scotland, the reaction would be immediate, brutal and uncompromising.  How he can “suppose” that in ANY Scottish school “your parents’ money is rated as important as your academic grades” and has a value system characterised by “money gets you everywhere” is quite beyond me, but demonstrates he has no real interest in the experience of 30,000 pupils and families in Scotland today.

For example, his supposition that independent schools in Scotland have any distant correlation with Brexit is as glib and offensive as it is laughable, as the published views of this organisation and individual heads and schools make very clear.  He should perhaps follow Brian Redhead, late of Radio 4’s advice, and observe a personal one-minute silence for daring to suggest that he knows how they all vote.

He seeks to justify his valid personal disapproval with the conflation that every one of the 6000 independent school pupils walking the streets of Glasgow are somehow aligned with the grim failure of political leadership on all sides away in Westminster, or the excesses of British colonialism, while disparaging the efforts those pupils and their teachers make to seek do prove their worth in public, private and third sectors.

He dismisses a public benefit test, unique to Scotland and designed by Holyrood – irrespective that means-tested fee assistance has more than tripled as a result, outstrips the UK by a considerable distance and, per capita, gives (publicly-funded) higher education a run for our money.  He ignores the £250 million in taxes and 11,000 jobs the sector maintain to cast aspersions of “corruption”.  All of this is done with merely a passing reference to the Scottish Government’s plan to increase business rate fivefold for 50 out of the 24,500 bodies on the Scottish charity register.

At no point does he pause to offer an explanation of how a modern Scotland should start paying for a further 28,500 pupils it currently does not have to; or why that modern Scotland should cast out 1,500 international boarders from over 50 countries; by closing historic and successful institutions. The same schools - broad in academic and extra-curricular provision and sought-after for learning support –must go for the sake of ideological purity.  It is this thinking that sees pupils in care from England taking up fully funded places in Scottish boarding schools, while no-one dares volunteer the same in Scotland itself.

Your correspondent’s slights at the expense of the Society of Jesus are below him and your publication.  The rest of his broadside shows that however much most of modern Scotland is prepared to listen and to collaborate, there are some for whom their personal view of perfect must be the enemy of the good.

Yours sincerely

John Edward


24 January 2019

Unique contribution of Edinburgh independent schools recognised                                                                                           

In a report launched today, the contribution of Edinburgh’s unique independent school sector is fully revealed. The 10 Edinburgh independent schools together educate around 11,700 nursery, primary and secondary pupils and employ 2,580 staff.  

In releasing the report, The Edinburgh Schools Heads commented jointly that:

“The independent school offer in Edinburgh is unique in both its breadth and scale.  It cover all forms of education provision; all-through, preparatory, day, boarding, single sex or co-educational.  It also offers SQA qualifications, GCSE and A-Level, International Baccalaureate and Steiner Curriculum.  The Edinburgh independent schools make a significant contribution to the City of Edinburgh and throughout Scotland.  As not for profit organisations, maintaining financial sustainability is of crucial importance as it allows the schools to fulfil their core role of providing education to pupils and enables them to undertake additional activities.

This report seeks to show the level of contribution the schools make to the local and national economic and educational capital, as well as their increasing contribution to widening access through means-tested fee assistance, and the scale of use of their shared facilities and resources.  All of this is achieved while adhering closely to their not-for-profit status. 

The report provides strong evidence of the huge benefit that Edinburgh's Independent Schools bring to the City. We urge those making decisions about the future of Edinburgh to heed this evidence and to work with us for the benefit of the whole community.  

The Edinburgh independent schools are determined to sustain and continue the unique contribution they have been making to Scotland’s capital city for almost 400 years”.

This assessment considers the contribution of 10 Edinburgh independent schools and includes:


16 January 2019

Response to Observer commentary on Kynaston & Green book

Dear Sirs

 If they seek to generate informed debate on Britain’s independent schools (Britain’s private school problem”, 13.01.19) David Kynaston and Francis Green need to get out and about around Britain itself.  Despite the photo of a Scottish school accompanying your online edition, there was no recognition whatsoever how systems and policies have diverged across the UK.

Scotland’s independent schools are part of the fabric of Scottish education.  They are all inspected by the same Inspectorate, Education Scotland, to which the sector contributes a healthy number of associate assessors.  Most teach to the same SQA examinations as the state system, with independent school teachers making a disproportionate contribution to the design and marking of those.

Most of all, since 2005, Scotland has had a discrete charity test which specifically looks at public benefit and widened access.  Since the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator got to work, schools have re-assessed and modernised their bursary, teaching and facility provision.  Means-tested fee assistance is now the norm, often starting with applicants requiring 100% support, and it has more than tripled to over £30 million in a sector of just under 30,000 pupils.  For reasons best known to itself, the Scottish Government has also decided to mark that legislative success by removing business rates relief from – exclusively - independent schools which have passed the public benefit test, although Wales is now consulting on something similar.

Tired clichés of boaters, old-boys and ivory towers are one thing, but stubborn ignorance of the diversity in the UK, is another.  Scotland’s schools are ready to talk, if anyone is prepared to listen.

Yours sincerely,

John Edward

Scottish Council of Independent Schools


20 November 2018

Statement about the Closure of The New School, Butterstone

“The news of the closure of The New School is a cause of great concern for the families and staff involve, and regret for Scottish education.    

The New School has played a unique and sensitive role for over 25 years in supporting and educating children with a wide range of specialist educational needs. 

It is a cause of concern for all of Scotland that the considerable responsibilities of the care sector and the demands on finance and resources have brought the school to this situation.  As a small independent charitable institution dealing in additional support needs, the climate has grown ever more challenging at the same time as the demand for schools like this is increasing across the country.

We will do all we can to offer support and assistance to the pupils, families and staff of The New School to find other centres where they can settle and flourish, just as they did at Butterstone.”

John Edward Director, SCIS

30 October 2018 

Scottish independent schools provide £51 million in fee assistance this academic year

Figures released by the Scottish Council for Independent Schools (SCIS) have revealed that Independent Schools in Scotland have provided in excess of £51 million in fee assistance during the current academic year (2018 / 2019).

The data, collected from SCIS’s 74 member schools, shows that 24.6% of mainstream pupils (7204) received means tested assistance (£30,807,706), with 573 pupils (3.2%) benefiting from 100% fee assistance.  A further £20,301,772 was awarded to children on non-means tested basis.

The figures show an increase of £2,473,121 on the previous year and brings the total fee assistance provided by the sector in the last ten years (2009 – 2019) to £404,495,065.

Commenting on the results, John Edward, Director of SCIS, said: “This results of the research into fee assistance in the independent sector demonstrates our absolute commitment to widening access to independent education in Scotland.

“We are responsible for educating 30,000 children around the country and the availability of fee assistance is something the sector is hugely proud of and works hard to achieve.  We have seen a steady and significant increase in the bursaries available rising from £24,588,023 in 2009/2010 to the current figure of £51,109,478. 

“This is a significant financial commitment for schools – all of which are not-for-profit - as the budget for fee assistance must come from cash reserves once salaries and other operational expenses have been paid.”

John added: “Scotland’s independent sector provides choice, diversity and excellence for Scotland’s young people and we will continue to work hard to safeguard fee assistance despite the impact of the Barclay review which will cost the sector £5 million a year.”

For further information on fee assistance visit:

10 September 2018

Full Response to article in The Herald

“The fundamental problem with this un-costed proposal is that it seeks to generate more income from a sector that it also seeks to “eradicate” – it can’t do both.  Unlike in England and Wales, Scotland’s independent schools already sit a stringent public benefit test, to secure widened access.  On top of that, they now face a unique five-fold increase in business rates.  Scottish parents and tax-payers might well ask what they have done to merit yet another tax rise, especially to pay for free school meals in England which are already free in Scotland.

The proposal makes no allowance for reduced demand. Parents make great sacrifices to send their children to independent schools and would be hard hit by a rise in fees that this tax would bring. For many, this could make the schools unaffordable and many children would end up being withdrawn and move to existing state schools where extra places would then have to be funded by the taxpayer, costing at least £6000 per year per child – always assuming there are enough classrooms to house them and state-funded teachers to teach them.  

Every year, our schools save the Scottish education budget £180 million, add £450 million to the Scottish economy and generate £250 million in tax.  In straightened times, they secure high attainment and offer subject choice, varied curricula, wide extra-curricular provision and learning support.  They should be left alone to continue that contribution to the nation.”


16 AUGUST 2018

SCIS response to Scotsman article on Derek Mackay

John Edward, Director, Scottish Council of Independent Schools:

 “The fact that independent schools will retain their charitable status but will not be eligible to the same charitable rates relief as every other charity in the UK as a result of the Barclay Review makes no sense.

 “So, the real question that Finance Secretary, Derek Mackay, should be asking following the government’s decision to remove independent schools’ charitable rates relief altogether is why not leave all registered charities alone? 

 “If he truly believes in Scotland’s competitive edge and removing an apparent inequality in the relief for educational bodies, then he should be arguing that all registered charities should be subject only to OSCR and instead encourage councils to use the 2015 Act to remove the anomaly of rates allocated to schools in their jurisdiction.

 “That way everyone can get on with doing their best and no further money is taken out the system.”

07 August 2018

Scotland’s independent schools excelling in languages as SQA results revealed

68% of independent school pupils achieve A grade in language Highers

As SQA exam results are released, data from the Scottish Council of Independent Schools (SCIS) reveals that 68% of pupils studying foreign languages have achieved a Higher grade A.

The data, collected from SCIS’s 74 member schools, shows that 72% of students achieved a Higher grade A in Mandarin, while 72% of those studying German, 69% of those studying French and 63% studying Spanish also achieved an A.

Scotland’s independent schools saw an improvement on 2017 results across the board, achieving 96% of National 5, 95% of Higher and 93% of Advanced Higher A-C passes across all subjects.

Commenting on the results, John Edward, Director of SCIS, said: “Congratulations to all students receiving their SQA results today. I am thrilled to see Scotland’s independent schools achieve such outstanding results that have topped last year’s yet again.

“It is particularly encouraging to see so many pupils flourish in languages. Languages provide young people with enhanced communication and adaptability skills, a deeper cultural awareness, as well as opening up a world of job opportunities which means that providing children with the opportunity to learn a new language from a younger age is paramount.”

Other Higher results for students across Scotland’s independent schools include:

  • 56% achieved a grade A in English; 95% achieved an A-C pass
  • 61% achieved a grade A in Maths; 93% achieved an A-C pass
  • 52% achieved a grade A in Physics; 92% achieved an A-C pass
  • 56% achieved a grade A in Chemistry; 93% achieved an A-C pass
  • 56% achieved a grade A in Biology; 93% achieved an A-C pass

Edward concluded: “Independent schools in Scotland have a track record of academic excellence and this is reflected once again in this year’s results. Smaller pupil/teacher ratios and significant investment in teaching facilities attracts some of the best teachers from across Scotland and beyond and this is reflected in the pupils’ outstanding exam performance.

“Despite challenging circumstances, Scotland’s independent sector continues to demonstrate dedication, energy and expertise in providing choice, diversity and excellence for Scotland’s young people.” 

July 2018

Statement about the closure of Beaconhurst School

“The news of the closure of Beaconhurst School, Bridge of Allan, is terribly sad.    This is a singular situation, not reflective of the independent school sector generally. 

Independent schools in Scotland are strong and we know that admissions are in good health with reports of high levels of interest and applications.  Our main concern is to offer support and assistance to the pupils, families and staff of Beaconhurst to find other schools where they can settle quickly.  We know that other independent schools will be accommodating and welcoming to Beaconhurst pupils where space permits.”

Monday 25th June 2018

SCIS Response to the opening of the Scottish Government consultation on Barclay implementation

“The Government’s consultation claims that it helps make Scotland the most attractive place for doing business in Europe; while putting some of Scotland’s most ambitious, successful and historic educational not-for-profit institutions at a competitive disadvantage to the rest of the United Kingdom.  It suggests making 50 charitable bodies different from 24,000 others in Scotland and over 180,000 in England and Wales.

The consultation uses a facile calculation of the impact on each school and family, completely disregarding the substantial variations in rateable value that are not dependent on school roll. The OSCR public benefit test was able to differentiate between sizes, types, facilities, incomes and outgoings, and it is both surprising and disappointing that the Government’s own Impact Assessment was incapable of doing the same.

Equally, the expanded contribution of means-tested fee assistance and the often-overlooked provision of arts, sports and academic provision to large parts of local communities is completely disregarded. All of that provision will now be subject to the same five-fold increase in business rates - which will in no way help the attainment, skills and health of Scotland’s children.

Last but not least, the consultation insists on comparing independent schools with local authority schools. It cannot be repeated often enough, clearly, that state schools do not have to make allowance out of their individual budgets for an entirely paper-based rates valuation. Every penny spent on state schools is every taxpayers’ money, every penny spent in independent schools comes from parents, after they have paid that same tax.”







Friday 19 January:

SCIS full response to article and poll in "The Times"

“The poll results will make depressing reading for the schools that have worked so hard for over 10 years to pass a test of their public benefit and widen access, something no other group of charities has done.  There is clearly much more work for the sector, and the charity regulator, to do in showing how much is being done – at the direct behest of the Parliament.
The results are perhaps less surprising given the nature of the recent public debate, with coverage of schools’ work using phrases like “swindle”, separating “precious offspring from the masses”, “obscene” and “insidious”.  It is a disgrace that the best intentions and choices of one group of teachers, families, pupils and schools can be portrayed in such a sweeping,  false and dismissive way.  No other group would be expected to tolerate it.
It is for policy-makers, and fair-weather critics, to explain to the public exactly what the implications of complete removal of charitable status would mean for Scottish education, the public purse and other charitable bodies.  In the meantime, we will get on with delivering the best possible education to young people from Scotland and beyond.”


"For mainstream schools the announcement today is, pure and simple, a backwards step by the Scottish Government – taken against advice and evidence from many quarters.  Rates relief - rejected both in principle and in substance by today’s announcement - is part and parcel of a unique public benefit test that was created unanimously by the Scottish Parliament and focussed specifically at independent schools.  The changes schools have made since 2006 to merit that relief amount to more than £200 million alone in means-tested fee assistance to Scottish pupils, alongside very extensive facilities, resources and staff provision for communities, public bodies, and state schools...." read more

Boy in class

scis photo boys on computers

August & September 2017 - SCIS letters to Cabinet Secretary on Barclay Review of Business Rates 

"In advance of the Scottish Government forming its response to the recent Review of Business Rates, the schools and staff in the independent sector are very concerned that the Report contains some fundamental misunderstandings and discrepancies.  We would welcome the opportunity to address these with you and your staff at the first opportunity, as they form the premise for proposals which would – through unintended consequences - have a significant detrimental effect on the sector and the educational profile of Scotland as a whole.  On this issue, as in all others facing Scotland’s schools, teachers and young people, the independent sector is determined to work together to be part of any solution, alongside partners in government, parliament, education bodies, regulators and beyond." Read more - August September

October 2017 - SCIS response to Sunday Herald "swindle" article  

SCIS made this response to an article in the Sunday Herald of 15 October - the headline of which was changed online subsequently.  Original article / SCIS response.

Tuesday 22 August: Response to Barclay Review of Non-Domestic Rates

“The findings of the Barclay Review run completely contrary to the charity test the Scottish Parliament required all schools to undertake; would put Scottish education at a competitive disadvantage in the UK and globally; would substantially impact the work schools can do on offering bursaries and other community provision; and would set independent schools aside from all other charities - for no sound legal, political, educational or economic reason.  Most of all, for a rates review, they would most likely cost the Scottish taxpayer and Government more than they seek to raise.”  Read More...

Scis book shelf

tennis ball

Thursday 28 April 2016: Economic Impact of SCIS Member Schools on the Scottish Economy

The report by Biggar Economics will highlight the fact that independent schools in Scotland generated £455.7 million Gross Value Added for the Scottish Economy in 2015 and supported over 10,500 jobs. The report also details the wider assistance to communities that schools provide through facilities and educational opportunities. Read More

Wednesday 7 September: SCIS Exam Results

SCIS exam candidates have achieved top grades in this year’s exam results with 1 in 6  candidates at a SCIS School achieving three or more A grades at Higher.

  • This year’s results from SCIS schools show that 68% of National 5 entries were awarded an A grade (36.5% nationally)
  • 92.3% of candidates in a SCIS school sitting Higher achieved a pass of which 55.3% achieved A grade
  • 93% of Advanced Higher entries from a SCIS school achieved a pass of which 53.3% gained an A grade

Read More

Media Enquiries

Alison Herbert, Deputy Director, External Relations: E: Tel: 0131 556 2316,   M: 07717 791 921