TEN TRENDS Ten factors and shifts shaping independent education. In association with:







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Ten factors and shifts

shaping independent



There is an increased reference to heads as CEOs across the sector.

We found that modern heads face an ambiguity in their role due to differing expectations placed on them by a school’s stakeholders.

We saw a trend towards dispersed leadership in schools.

The senior team is increasingly referred to as a senior leadership team, with more emphasis on leadership.

Continuing professional development needs to reflect the requirements for leadership skills further down the school.

Identifying leadership potential is considered ever more important.

Models of CPD are emerging in the sector that draw on best practice from ‘industry’ and other professions.

“The idea that everyone can and should be a leader indicates a potential change in momentum from hierarchical models to something more democratic and all-embracing.”


Governing schools has become a demanding and complex activity.

There are now over 400 ISI framework regulations compared with fewer than 10 in the early 1990s.

Recruiting governors is increasingly challenging.

Some schools have begun to use recruitment consultants to find a chair of governors.

Our research has shown:

Governors are more engaged with schools, visiting more frequently.

There is a greater level of integration with senior management teams, e.g. joint away days and SMT attendance at governing body meetings.

Balancing the right skills and experience on the governing body is even more important.

Steering the path between governance and management is increasingly difficult.

Governing body self-review is critical to ensuring effective governance.

“The single largest source of new governors still comes from the networks of existing governors.”


Number of registered trainee teachers enrolling on teacher training programmes has fallen below Government target for three years in a row.

Changes to routes for teacher training have implications for independent schools, with a greater emphasis on school-based training pursued in the state sector.

There is a shortage of teachers in many subjects, it is particularly acute for maths and physics.

Teacher pay is typically higher in the independent sector.

However, academies and free schools now have freedom to determine their own pay policies.

Over a third of all heads we spoke to have introduced a performance related pay scheme and 40% had not yet ruled out adopting a PRP scheme.

“It is not just the numbers of newly trained teachers that is a concern, so too is the availability of certain specialist subject teachers.”


Pupil wellbeing – it is not about ‘happiness’ classes

Mental health is a central part of an individual’s overall wellbeing.

Around 20% of all children in the UK have a mental health problem in any given year and about 10% at any one time.

Around 3% of children in the UK are affected by anxiety disorders.

The traditional PSHE model is no longer sufficient to ensure the wellbeing of children and young people.

Nearly a third of the heads and pastoral staff interviewed cited increasing pressures as a major factor behind changing wellbeing needs in pupils today.

Heads were most concerned about the impact of technology and social media on wellbeing.

“We have many more of our pupils who would say they have been bullied online than would say that they’ve been bullied in the real world.”

Head of a girls’ day school

Impact of negative societal factors (such as media and peer pressure) is causing greater concern than before and is associated with negative body image and low self esteem amongst girls and boys.


Staff wellbeing

Staff are the most valuable and expensive resource available to a school.

Staff are the front line and schools need to ensure they are able to work at their best.

More schools are focusing on staff wellbeing.

Heads reported the incidence of staff mental health and wellbeing issues is increasing.

The role of monitoring

• Monitoring wellbeing is central to being able to effectively support both

pupils and staff.

• Many schools reported that they were actively investigating ways in

which to monitor wellbeing.

Wellbeing is important

• Our researchers believe this is, very possibly, the single most important


The number of academies has gone from 159 in 2010 to over 4,000 in 2014.

60% of all secondary schools are now academies.

55% of all open academies are primary schools.

There are new types of schools being opened:

Free schools;

Studio schools;

University technical colleges.

A small number of independent schools have opted to convert to academy status or become a free school.

Competition is perhaps most focused in areas where grammar schools exist.

The expansion of grammar school numbers poses a threat to independent schools.

Number of pupils in grammar schools is at its highest since 1978.

There are many examples of excellent partnerships between state and independent schools.

Around 66% of heads interviewed reported their school was in partnership or working alliance with state schools.

11 independent schools are approved sponsors of academies.

“We focus on the role that independent schools can play in driving forward school-led improvement to ensure that children and young people can benefit from the best education possible.”


A new role for teachers and deeper learning for


Blended learning: technology is used alongside traditional methods in the teaching and learning process.

Teachers can increasingly be considered collaborative leaders of a learning process aided by use of digital technology.

Students have more of a responsibility for learning and readying themselves for in-class activities.

A new role for schools

• Technology and its use is challenging the way schools operate, e.g. • Space utilisation;

• Classroom design; • Timetabling.

“The greatest imperative for school edtech strategies is that pupils and their parents are increasingly expecting schools to be as engaged in the ‘digital now’ as they are. “

Implications for school leaders

• Technological advances continue to be fast paced.

• Technology ‘revolutions’ are often promised but not always realised.

• The potential for capital investment is significant so decisions need to be


London is home to 8.3 million people. Its population is rising more rapidly than any other UK region.

By 2050 London’s population is forecast to reach 12 million.

The Greater London Assembly believes there will a need for 600 new schools to meet this forecast population growth.

There has been strong growth in the number of pupils at ISC schools in London. There are over 14% more pupils in 2014 than there were in 2007.

17% of all ISC schools and pupils are in London.

Schools in London are typically less dependent on bursaries

In 2014 on average fee concessions accounted for 8.2% of gross fee income in ISC London based schools. This compares with 12% in the North and a UK average of 10.6%.

Selectivity and competition is a feature of much of the London independent school market.

However, the London market is not homogeneous.

Affordability is critical to Schools in the outer London Boroughs to sustain pupil numbers.

The need for schools to differentiate is increasingly important.

“All of the heads we spoke to remarked upon the need to create a clear identity and a high-quality education, Particularly where pupils were sitting entrance tests for multiple schools.”


Opportunities do exist, but schools need to be open and honest about what they are doing and what they offer.

School leaders should decide on the strategy first and then market – all too often marketing is done with no clear overarching strategy for


Schools should review their niche and make sure it works in the context of their market.

International schools have helped to raise further the profile of UK-based boarding. Heads reported a positive impact on boarding numbers as a result.

International pupil mix is positive: the notion of a global citizen is important and enhanced by international pupil communities.

72% of heads thought that the numbers of British boarders would decrease.

72% also believed that the number of non-British boarders would increase.

The majority of heads thought the market for British pupils with parents living overseas would also increase.

“The definition of full boarding sounds straightforward but it certainly is not any more.”


There has been significant, almost imperceptible, change in both prep schools and senior schools.

Age ranges have and continue to change:

13-18 schools are reducing their entry age to 11.

Prep schools are reducing their leaving age from 13 to 11.

Prep schools are opening pre-preps and nurseries.

There is a trend towards co-ed away from single sex schools and also towards day from boarding.

Senior school fees tend to be higher in 13-18 boarding schools than 11-18 day schools, resulting in greater pressure on parents to start senior school at 11+ rather than 13+.

Increasingly a pre-test is being used to determine entry into senior school, which is taken in advance of the traditional Common Entrance exam. This is having considerable impact on prep schools.

The trend towards co-ed has meant a greater emphasis on 11+ entry for both boys and girls, driven by the fact that the typical senior school entry point for girls has always been and remains age 11.

The report puts this shifting landscape into context by analysing changes to 200 prep schools over a period of 15 years.

“Prep school heads feel that the future of 11+/13+ is largely in the hands of the senior schools”


30% of parents surveyed by the ISC would choose to send their children to an independent school if they could afford to do so. But only 7% of parents actually do.

Average private school fees have quadrupled since 1990.

Price is a barrier to participation.

The average salaries of certain professions have not kept pace with average school fee increases and these professions have ‘priced out of the market’.

There is an increased tendency for parents to ‘mix and match’ state and independent schooling.

Parents may opt to educate their child in a local infant school till the age of 7 and then to a prep school in advance of senior school entrance assessment. Such a choice is likely to saving parents around £100k.

Across the sector, schools offer various fee remissions, including means-tested bursaries; scholarships and staff remission.

For the first time in 2013, the average value of fee remissions reached 10% of average gross fee income.

Many Heads forecast that there will be a consolidation of independent schools in the coming years.

“Whilst the drive to increase income continues, so too does the imperative to drive down costs wherever possible.”


How to order your copy of Ten Trends 2015

Priced at £65 a copy of the report can be ordered by contacting Jane Follows. Discounts are available for orders of five or more copies of the report.

E jane@rsacademics.co.uk

T 01858 467449

Governing body or senior leadership team presentation

The ideal way to absorb the findings of the RSAcademics Ten Trends 2015 report and consider their impact on your school is to arrange a Ten Trends presentation for your school’s next leadership team meeting or governing body’s away-day. Priced at £800 +VAT, sessions will be led by either Russell Speirs (CEO and

Founder of RSAcademics), Claire Oulton (Senior Advisor) or Heather Styche-Patel (Head of Strategic Marketing & Research). Each standard presentation will last around two hours.

Bespoke presentations are also available. Prices are dependent on individual requirements.

These can also be booked by contacting Jane Follows.

E jane@rsacademics.co.uk


Founded by Russell Speirs in 2002, RSAcademics advises

schools on marketing, research and strategic planning. We

also operate specialist services for the search and selection,

coaching and development of school leaders and senior staff.

Ten Trends 2015 is an example of the research and new

thinking we provide for school leaders, in order to fulfil our

mission – to help schools thrive.






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