Interview: Suzanne Rowse, British Boarding Schools Network
Jo Golding talks to Suzanne Rowse, director of British Boarding Schools Network, about how the company has transformed international recruitment in schools and what the future of boarding looks like
Q. Can you sum up your career history?
After studying business at university, I worked in several marketing roles in software, events and international publishing. I then took a different direction into boarding schools’ marketing when I worked at a girls’ school in Kent. After eight years I decided to set up my own company to provide marketing services to British boarding schools in order to make it easier and more cost-effective for schools to recruit international pupils.
Q. What inspired you to set up British Boarding Schools Network?
Whilst working in a school marketing role, I realised there was a lack of market intelligence specifically for boarding schools regarding recruitment markets and how to find agents in different parts of the world. International recruitment for schools was very expensive because each school was trying to have a diverse range of nationalities represented in their communities.
I set up the business to help schools overcome this challenge, and to make it easy for them to work successfully with reputable, reference-checked agents. I started initially with running the British Boarding Schools’ workshops, which are networking events for schools and agents, and the range of services has grown to include a membership through which we provide training, networking days and an online portal providing a database of agents, market intelligence, news and sector updates.
Q. What are the best things about your job and the biggest challenges?
I enjoy being able to share knowledge and experience with school staff, having worked in a school myself and having worked in the sector for more than 20 years. It can be a daunting role, especially for those who are new in post. We constantly review our services to ensure they are meeting the needs of our client schools and positive feedback shows how our services have transformed international recruitment in schools.
I also enjoy the international aspect and love meeting agents from all over the world. Many of them are friends, having worked with me for 20 years.
The biggest challenge is that schools have limited teams and budgets, and often don’t have a carefully considered international strategy which means limited resources are wasted. Our services have been enhanced to help school staff know how to put a well-informed strategy together.
Q. What issue in education are you most passionate about?
Ensuring boarding schools meet the needs of international pupils – not just their educational needs. Schools need to ensure they are clear as to why they are recruiting international pupils and what the drivers are, which should not be purely financial.
Q. What was your favourite subject at school?
Q. What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
We live near the Dorset coast so I spend as much time as I can at the beach. This summer I have spent a lot of time paddle boarding which is a great antidote to a busy life.
Q.What are some of the most common concerns schools ask you for help with?
How to develop an international strategy, which markets should they be focusing on and what are the emerging markets.
Q. What does the future of UK boarding schools look like?
UK boarding schools and the holistic education they provide are still highly regarded across the world. However, as a sector we must not be complacent and we need to be aware of global competition, not just in the form of other schools but from other routes to education and access to university. BBSN are working hard to promote British boarding to our global network of trusted agents who recruit thousands of pupils into schools each year. By fostering a community of schools and agents who work together well and successfully we will ensure agents remain loyal to our sector.
Q. What are your plans for BBSN going forward?
We have added more training and networking events into our member services. Our school members have told us they need more opportunities to meet face to face with agents, and staff from other schools in order to network and discuss current issues affecting their roles.
Q. If you weren’t the director of BBSN, what would you do instead?
I’d probably be working in nutrition. It’s an area that fascinates me.
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