Prep schools outcompeted by state primaries – Ralph Lucas

Editor of The Good Schools Guide says prep schools are facing a terminal decline due to state competition

Prep schools could be facing a terminal decline because of competition from the state sector and private tutors, the editor of The Good Schools Guide has said.

Ralph Lucas said prep schools are falling behind because independent senior schools had changed the way they recruit students and were more focused on recruiting the highest achieving children.

“State primaries are getting much better, and independent secondary schools are getting much better at recruiting their pupils from there. Tutoring has become a really professional business with highly qualified tutors supporting children for entrance tests. It makes more sense economically for parents to send children to their local primary and get a tutor,” Lucas told The Times.

As a result of this competition, the traditional links between preparatory and senior schools were being “cast aside”, according to Lucas.

Ofsted now considers 87% of state primaries to be either good or outstanding. Figures from the Department for Education show that in the past year the number of children aged five to 10 attending private schools fell from 197,551 to 196,000.

The Independent Schools Council’s 2019 census, which collected data from over 600 junior schools, showed a 0.9% decline in the number of students enrolled at prep schools.

Many independent senior schools have changed their admissions with most students now enrolling in year seven at the age of 11. This aligns them with the state system rather than preparatory schools which traditionally tutor students until the age of 13.