Parents embarking on a school search for the first time quickly learn what a complex process it can be. Top of the considerations are often location, academic reputation and facilities; a school website or open day can be overwhelming with so many factors for parents to consider. With many first-time buyers entering the market, parents cannot rely on their own experiences of independent school to inform their decision.
This is where the education consultant comes into their own. With vast experience of UK independent schools, their individual strengths and weaknesses, the consultant can help parents to clarify what is most important to them and identify the qualities in a school that would make it the best environment for their child to flourish in. Where a small setting may give the shy child an opportunity to shine brightly, it may not work for a talented sports player who needs lots of healthy competition to raise their game.
Whilst a successful placement will lead to satisfied parents, it also contributes to the long-term wellbeing of the child and their capacity to become fully involved in school life. A happy and engaged child is more likely to participate with enthusiasm and try new things, in and out of the classroom, making their time at the school fulfilling and their likelihood of remaining connected with the institution far greater. Parents know their child is in an environment that will nurture as well as motivate them and they are in turn more likely to recommend the school.
The sense of pride pupils have for the school creates a connected, rich seam of alumni loyal to the school and likely to consider it for their own children, when the time comes around. Pupils are more likely to forge friendships that last a lifetime and with international students attending UK independent schools in increasing numbers, they are never far from a fellow alumnus wherever they are in the world.
Alumni are extremely helpful in raising a school’s profile abroad and in most expat communities there will be alumni associations. Former pupils can be the best ambassadors for a school and can be powerful supporters for your upcoming pupil body by providing mentoring in life skills, employment guidance and job opportunities. The university destinations and career choices of the alumni are also a living demonstration of the possibilities of studying at their school. Staying in touch with their alumni will result in repeat business for the school, through the power of word of mouth. They can make perfect motivational guest speakers for your speech night. Ultimately, they are a powerful marketing tool.
For education consultants, keeping in touch with the alumni networks – from recent leavers to those becoming first-time parents – is a vital resource of ‘inside information’ and keeps them abreast with the school’s current reputation. This in turn helps to fine tune their school searches to ensure they identify the right setting to fit every child’s learning style and individual needs.
Rachel Lewis is Senior School Placement Consultant at Gabbitas Education