Independent schools not concerned with falling pupil numbers


A new survey of school staff has revealed that despite the challenging economic climate, most fee-paying schools are not worried about keeping pupil numbers up or the potential competition from state-funded free schools.

The survey, which was conducted at Capita’s SIMS Independent Schools’ Conference, showed that over 83% of respondents were either not at all concerned or only slightly concerned about falling pupil numbers.

More than 60% of respondents also indicated that they are not concerned about having to compete with free schools to attract pupils.

The survey also revealed that:

  • Of those respondents who were concerned about falling pupil numbers, nearly 50% said their schools were reviewing their marketing activity or modifying their curriculum in response.
  • Despite a 90% growth in schools offering the International Baccalaureate worldwide over the last 5 years, more than 97% of respondents said there were no current plans to introduce it in their schools.
  • Of those respondents whose schools offer more than one secondary level qualification, over 85% said they were very satisfied with their ability to administer their portfolio of options.

Julie Booth, head of independent schools at Capita SIMS, said: “The survey reveals that generally, schools in the independent sector remain optimistic about the future and do not see the new wave of government funded schools as a major threat to their ability to attract the best pupils.

“The results suggest that many schools are confident in their ability to deliver educational excellence and bring pupils through their doors, despite the continuing squeeze on household budgets.

“We know from speaking to schools that they want to provide as broad a curriculum as possible but juggling staff and pupil timetables can often be a complex undertaking. The results of the survey reveal that over 85% of respondents from schools attended by secondary school aged pupils were very satisfied with their ability to manage a portfolio of options for study. This is good news for both pupils and their parents.

“Whatever shape schools take in the future, parents who choose to send their children to a fee-paying school expect them to benefit from the highest standards of teaching and learning. What the survey has shown us is that schools need IT systems and software in place that will help them to target their marketing more effectively and deliver a rich and varied curriculum that will meet the high expectations of parents.”

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