‘Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world’
As our hearts go out to all impacted by the new Coronavirus outbreak, my thoughts wander to schools, both state and independent. The education of our children shapes the future of mankind. Future generations have so much to contend with; climate change, a pending recession and a pandemic that we hope they will never experience again in their lifetimes. What are the long-lasting effects of this virus? Nobody really knows yet, but one thing is for certain: the impacts will be widespread and will change the way our education system works forever.
When I consider the knock on effect to class sizes in the state sector should we see a number of independent schools close, I also wonder what the scale of the impact will be on independent schools who mainly rely on fees to survive. Due to closures at present, schools’ immediate focus, energy and resources are being dedicated to providing online learning of the highest level in order to stimulate their pupils. The expectation from parents to deliver against all odds, will be a continued concern and stress for all teachers and for independent schools, the added pressure from fee paying parents who seek value for money.
In a time where redundancies are prevalent the decision to increase fees in line with the rate of inflation hangs over the Principals, Executive Boards and Trustees. Balancing empathy and support alongside a focused approach to allow the school to operate efficiently as a business, is among the most agonising decisions facing independent schools. Declining numbers must be at the top of their lists, together with the heart wrenching decisions to turn children away when they learn a parent has become a victim of redundancy and can no longer afford the fees. This is especially harrowing where the school’s bursary funds are limited and where such funds are usually allocated to pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds.
The leading independent schools are well-versed at generating income through lettings, by engaging their alumni and through philanthropy, however, in this given moment all lettings income has been paralysed and engaging their alumni is proving more challenging than ever.
With the pressure to remain at the top of the league tables, one of the most important marketing tools for independent schools, attracting top quality talent is paramount. With vast numbers of independent schools being forced to furlough jobs, it is crucial for independents to embrace technology to continue their planning of recruitment for September and beyond. A robust recruitment strategy for at least 12 months needs to be embedded: Now is the time to be proactive and embrace new ways of working.
In these unprecedented times, the country’s collaborative effort has instilled a sense of hope through national unity. I am confident the schools, both state and independent, can see the value of working together in much the same way. Independents are working hard to keep pupil numbers steady and are thankful for the generosity of alumni in rising to the challenge of increasing bursary funds in order to carry on creating opportunities for others. Independent schools contribute much under their corporate social responsibility to both the community and to that of children who receive transformational bursaries, and for these reasons alone, they are an important piece in the educational jigsaw.
About the author
Vanessa is currently a Business Development Director for Eteach. With 25 years’ experience of the commercial, charitable and educational sectors, Vanessa’s expertise lays within recruitment, marketing and senior leadership within education. Her most recent fundraising role was with the GDST as the Trust Development Consultant responsible for advising the 25 schools within the Trust on their development programmes. In an era where talented teachers are crucial to raising children’s attainment levels and where funding supports aspirations to be nurtured, Vanessa is passionate about adding value to children’s experiences through sharing her knowledge with like-minded professionals.