The UK’s largest school open day

Battersea Park welcomed 200 leading schools as well as expert speakers at the Independent Schools Show 2015

Under a canopy of stars at Battersea Evolution, a big line-up of schools and speakers offered parents the chance to get their burning questions answered as they consider the next step in their child’s education. 

It was clear to see why British education is considered the best in the world – from academic results to career progression to fantastic extra-curricular achievements, it was truly inspiring to see so many of you in one place.

The Lancing College team

Student work on display at Bedales

The Mayfield School team

In between the meeting and greeting, we got the chance to hear from top speakers – including head of Francis Holland School, Sloane Square, Lucy Elphinstone. Lucy spoke about teaching girls to take risks and understand that it is OK to fail. Everyday pressures for young women include appearances, social media presence and, of course, exam pressure. When it comes to the world of work, employers are looking for more than just A* grades – they want qualities such as emotional intelligence, problem solving and resilience.

Lucy emphasises that young women are used to relying on praise, and their dependence on getting things right can be detrimental to wellbeing (for example, feeling like they have failed if they achieve a B grade in an exam.) “Emotional health buckles under the need to be Little Miss Perfect,” she says, and thinks schools must support individuality.

Lucy Elphinstone: ‘The only glass ceiling is in their minds’

FHS Sloane Square has “transformed” their sports provision, introduced mindfulness sessions and started a Place2Be programme, to help girls’ wellbeing and promote early intervention in mental health problems. Lucy insists that they can do anything they set their mind to: “The only glass ceiling is in their minds.”

Next up was a charged debate between Toby Young, co-founder of West London Free School and Jim Hawkins, head of Harrow School. Chairing the conversation was Charles Bonas, founder of Bonas MacFarlane Education, who asks if free schools or fee-paying schools will be the education system of the future.

Today’s Harrow, according to Jim Hawkins, is somewhat different to its 19th century form – offering fee support and bursaries to encourage students of all backgrounds to apply.

Charles Bonas chairs the debate  between Jim Hawkins and Toby Young

Toby Young wants to dissuade parents from paying for private school – on the basis that an independent education may not impact exam results or degree outcomes. Parents would be better off, Toby says, saving the money that would have been spent on fees and giving it to children as a lump sum – to put towards a flat, for example. He says that the success of privately educated young people is largely down to social factors, as schools can offer the kind of ‘connections’ that state schools may not be able to.

Jim, however, says that one system is not superior to the other, and that different school types excel in different areas – so there is still a place for independents who share expertise in order to facilitate social mobility.

It’s a tricky debate, but both panelists offered great food for thought amongst the wealth of information available to parents at the exhibition. It’s clear to see that the private sector is well-placed to move with the times while continuing to offer a first-class education.

What do you think – is the future free or fee-paying? Send your news and views to [email protected]




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