Families facing financial difficulties are still prioritising sending their children to private schools, according to experts.
Against a bleak economic background, fee-charging schools have continued to grow, figures revealed on Thursday. The news comes a day after the Office of National Statistics confirmed Britain had entered a double-dip recession.
The figures, released by the Independent Schools Council (ISC) show private schools have consistently grown in size in the last 25 years.
ISC Chairman, Barnaby Lenon said: "Independent schools throughout the country should be very proud of the results of this Census.
"At a time of recession, when very many parents are struggling financially, it is clear that finding fees for their children's education remains a priority for very large numbers."
The census also shows that fees for private schools rose by 4.5% last year.
The ISC said that this was the second lowest rise since 1994, and across its schools the amount of financial assistance provided to families was rising. A third of ISC pupils receive help with their fees.
Although parents are clearly still intent on getting their children into private schools, British pupils numbers have dropped by 0.1%. As a result, schools charging fees are recruiting rising numbers of pupils from overseas as the proportion of British students stalls.
The latest census from ISC reveals a 5.8% increase in the proportion of non-British pupils at its member schools.
The census reveals that overall, pupil numbers at ISC schools are up by 0.1% this year, with 508,472 pupils at 1,223 ISC schools.
It shows that in the 1,209 schools that took part in the census this year and last, there are now 25,940 non-British pupils with parents living overseas, compared to 24,529 the year before - an increase of 5.8%.
In these same schools, the numbers of British pupils fell to 479,009 from 479,695 in 2011 - a drop of 0.1%.
In the past five years, the biggest growth in overseas pupils has come from Russia, Spain, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and China, the census says.
The highest numbers of non-British pupils, who have parents living overseas, come from Hong Kong, followed by China and Germany.
The Council said that the rise in non-British pupils, and a reported increase by 27% of schools in the numbers of their students going to university overseas "highlight the attraction of an education at an ISC school to a global market".
In England, ISC schools have a higher proportion of minority ethic pupils than state schools (26.1% compared with 24.5%), the census claims.