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Main article: Private school education

An independent school is a school which is not dependent upon national or local government for financing its operation and is instead operated by tuition charges, gifts, and in some cases the investment yield of an endowment.

The terms independent school and private school are often synonyms in popular usage outside the United Kingdom. Independent schools may have a religious affiliation, but the more precise usage of the term excludes parochial and other schools if there is a financial dependence upon, or governance subordinate to, outside organizations. These definitions generally apply equally to primary education, secondary education, and tertiary education institutions.

United Kingdom

Main article: Independent school (UK)

In England, Wales and Northern Ireland the more prestigious independent schools are known as public schools, sometimes categorised as major and minor public schools. Membership of the Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference is what defines a school as a public school, though this includes many independent grammar schools. When founded, such schools were indeed 'public', that is intended for those who could not afford education; they have long since lost their raison d'être.

In Scotland, those schools which are not state funded are known as private schools or in the vernacular of some regions known as Merchant's Schools, (e.g. in Trainspotting|)


In Australia, independent or private schools are the fastest growing education sector and over 85% of them have a religious or church affiliation. There are currently 1,078 independent schools catering for 491,000 students in Australia (as of 2006). Some independent schools are prestigious and enrolment highly sought after, with tuition fees to match, however since the 1980s the number of low-fee schools catering for 'average' Australians, and in some cases without any religious affiliation, has increased significantly. Independent schools in Australia make up nearly 15% of total enrolments while Catholic schools, which usually have lower fees, also make up a sizeable proportion (18%) and are usually regarded as a school sector of their own within the broad category of independent schools. Enrolments in non-government schools has been growing steadily at the expense of enrolments in government schools which have seen their enrolment share reduce from 78% to 67% since 1970. Australian independent schools differ slightly from those in the United States as the Australian Government provides funding to all schools including independent schools using a 'needs based' funding scheme based on a Socio-Economic Status (SES) score. The school's SES score is derived by selecting a sample of parent's addresses and mapping these to a Census Collector District from the Australian Bureau of Statistics Census. The household income & education data is then used to derive an SES score for each school, which places it on a sliding scale of funding entitlement. On average, funding granted to an independent school is 47% of that required to operate a government school, the residual being made up by tuition fees paid by parents.

United States

Independent schools in the United States educate a tiny fraction of the school-age population (slightly over 1% of the entire school-age population, 10% of the 10% of students who go to private schools). The essential distinction between independent schools and other private schools is independence itself, essentially independence in governance and in finance: i.e., independent schools own, govern, and finance themselves. In contrast, public schools are funded and governed by government and most parochial/diocesan schools are owned, governed, and financed by a church organization. The National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) is a membership organization of American pre-college independent schools. See List of independent Catholic schools in the United States. The membership organization for independent tertiary education institutions is the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities.[1]

United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child

Article 29 - "Article 29 (of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child) claims to limit the right of parents and others to educate children in private school by requiring that all such schools support both the charter and principles of the United Nations and a list of specific values and ideals. By contrast, United States Supreme Court case law has provided that a combination of parental rights and religious liberties provide a broader right of parents and private schools to control the values and curriculum of private education free from State interference."[2]

See also


  1. National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities
  2. David M. Smolin, Overcoming Religious Objections to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, Article 29, 104 at [1] - See Susan H. Bitensky, Educating the Child for a Productive Life, in CHILDREN’S RIGHTS IN AMERICA 181 (Cynthia Price Cohen & Howard A. Davidson eds., 1990) (referring to “fundamentalist” curriculum used in some private religious schools which evidences hostility toward the United Nations). Relevant cases include Runyon v. McCrary, 427 U.S. 160 (1976); Wisconsin v. Yoder, 406 U.S. 205 (1972); Pierce v. Society of Sisters, 268 U.S. 510 (1925); Meyer v. Nebraska, 262 U.S. 390 (1923).

Further reading

  • Hein, David (4 January 2004). What Has Happened to Episcopal Schools? The Living Church, 228, no. 1, 21-22.
  • Windrush School

External links

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