Westminster Education Forum

Since lockdown, we have been organising our full programme of conferences online. We will continue online until further notice, to ensure we play our part in helping our employees and delegates to remain safe during this time. We are pleased that so many key stakeholders, policymakers and other interested parties - both old friends and new delegates - are taking up the opportunity to discuss public policy issues and network at our impartial seminars. New events are coming on to our conference programme all the time. So there are plenty of opportunities for you to join us if you haven’t already, from wherever you are. For booking-related queries, or information on speaking, please email us at info@forumsupport.co.uk or contact us using one of the following numbers: +44 (0)7951044809 / +44 (0)7503591880 / +44 (0)7538736244.
For delegates already booked on, we will send you the online joining instructions (including links, event numbers and passwords) five working days before your conference. If you cannot find these in your inbox please email delegate.relations@forumsupport.co.uk

Key priorities for the independent schools sector

Morning, Thursday, 28th January 2021

***Full-scale policy conference taking place online***

This conference focuses on the next steps for the independent school sector.

The conference comes with continuing significant disruption to education across England following the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, and will be an opportunity to discuss the experience and future outlook in the independent school sector, as well as to consider policy developments in this area.

It comes with concern surrounding the future financial sustainability of some independent schools in light of the pandemic but with some schools seeing an increase in interest from children studying in the maintained sector.

There will also be discussion on how the sector can continue to attract international students with recent figures suggesting that around 7% of boarding school pupils have delayed or deferred their return to school.

The discussion at a glance:

  • future financial sustainability - prospects for the sector and segments within it in the face of economic downturn, Brexit and other challenges
  • prospects and strategies for growth - admissions, international student recruitment, international expansion and building om the success of remote learning
  • the wider school system - the contribution of independent schools, their positioning now and going forward, outreach and latest thinking on how to advocate the value of the sector
  • COVID-19 - learning from innovation and the way the sector has adapted, including examples of good practice in blended learning and supporting student mental health

Relevant developments:

  • Coronavirus (COVID-19): guidance for residential educational settings with international students under the age of 18 - recently published by the DfE
  • All possible measures to be taken before schools and colleges close - recent publication of DfE and DHSCE contingency plans
  • GCSE and A level students to receive centre assessment grades - the DfE and Ofqual decision to revert back to centre assessment grades for this years A Level and GCSE exams after concern over inconsistency in grades received through an algorithm
  • ISC chief executive, Julie Robinson, responds to a letter from the Competition and Markets Authority, which reminded schools about competition law compliance during the COVID-19 outbreak
  • International Education Strategy: global potential, global growth - launched in 2019 by DfE and DIT aiming for education exports to be £35bn with 600,000 international students annually by 2030
  • Children doing 2½ hours’ schoolwork a day on average ­- research having estimated over 2m children in the UK to have done no school work at home during lockdown
  • Anxious middle-classes look to private schools after coronavirus disruption - Guardian reporting on independent schools seeing an increase in applications for admissions due to perceived successes in the independent sector in adapting to remote education

Key areas for discussion:

  • COVID-19
    • impact - on schools, segments of the market and the sector as a whole, looking at the experience during the pandemic, use of remote learning, student mental health and next steps forward
    • the current state of play - assessing the independent school sector following considerable changes to the wider school and education system as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic
    • remote learning - what has learnt from the transition to it increased use, including the impact on student and parent satisfaction, educational attainment, and student mental health
    • learning for the future - what can be taken away from the experience of operations and delivery to inform arrangements going forward:
      • efficiently moving between in-person and online learning in the case of further local lockdowns
      • supporting student mental health during changes and challenges
      • the possible future use of EdTech post-pandemic
  • financial sustainability
    • financial outlook  - policy and sector priorities for supporting the sector’s recovery, as well as how the experience can inform future practice in financial management in independent schools
    • meeting the challenges - looking at examples of innovation, adaptation and best practice, including fee reductions and payment by instalment plans to support families struggling with fees
    • legal and regulatory requirements - the impact of concerns about collaborative price-fixing and the CMA warning, and options for bearing down on schools cutting regulatory and legal corners in the face of financial pressures
  • exports:
    • international student recruitment - assessing the challenges and strategies for reassuring prospective overseas students and their parents on safety and quality of education with the continuing impact of the pandemic
    • international expansion - the outlook for exports and the International Education Strategy, and strategies for preparing for the passing of the pandemic and the end of UK transition from the EU, and building new and existing international partnerships going forward
  • the sector’s contribution to the wider school system:
    • the sector’s profile in challenging times - with recent developments having brought into sharp focus concerns around widening educational inequality
    • independent-state school partnerships  - progress and latest developments in the contribution to catch-up tutoring and improving engagement, particularly with remote learning, educational attainment outside the sector, as well as priorities moving forward
    • remote learning - strategic implications of the perceived success of the sector in adapting to remote education being a factor in some independent schools having seen an increase in applications, including as one of the bases for furthering independent-state school collaboration on best practice and access to technology  for remote study
    • the EdTech Demonstrator Schools and Colleges ­- how this programme for improving school-to-school support for adopting the use of EdTech can inform the future direction for improving independent-state school collaboration in remote learning

The agenda:

  • The independent sector - in the wake of COVID-19 and looking to the future
  • Immediate areas of focus - the return to the classroom, supporting student wellbeing, maintaining quality, and building on success in remote and blended teaching
  • Priorities for the financial sustainability of independent schools
  • Admissions and international expansion - the student cohort profile, international student recruitment, and development of sister campuses abroad
  • Independent schools and the wider school system - partnership strategies, support and outreach, and the role of the sector in challenging times
  • Next steps for joint working between independent and state schools

Policy officials attending:

Our forums are known for attracting strong interest from policymakers and stakeholders. Places have been reserved by Ofsted and the Department for the Economy, NI. Also due to attend are representatives from the Haberdashers Monmouth Schools and The Independent Association of Prep Schools.

This is a full-scale conference taking place online***

  • full, four-hour programme including comfort breaks - you’ll also get a full recording to refer back to
  • information-rich discussion involving key policymakers and stakeholders
  • conference materials provided in advance, including speaker biographies
  • speakers presenting via webcam, accompanied by slides if they wish, using the Cisco WebEx professional online conference platform (easy for delegates - we’ll provide full details)
  • opportunities for live delegate questions and comments with all speakers
  • a recording of the addresses, all slides cleared by speakers, and further materials, is made available to all delegates afterwards as a permanent record of the proceedings
  • delegates are able to add their own written comments and articles following the conference, to be distributed to all attendees and more widely
  • networking too - there will be opportunities for delegates to e-meet and interact - we’ll tell you how!

Full information and guidance on how to take part will be sent to delegates before the conference

Keynote Speaker

Barnaby Lenon

Chairman, Independent Schools Council

Keynote Speakers

Barnaby Lenon

Chairman, Independent Schools Council

Christopher King

Chief Executive Officer, The Independent Association of Prep Schools


Brendan Clarke-Smith

Vice-Chair, All-Party Parliamentary Group on Independent Education


Jo Smith

Head teacher, Danesfield Manor Preparatory School, Surrey

Ginny Rhodes

Headteacher, St. Crispin’s School, Berkshire and Executive Headteacher, The Circle Trust

Ed Mason

Deputy Head (Academic) and Head of Digital Learning, Bedales School

Robin Fletcher

Chief Executive Officer, Boarding Schools’ Association

Shaun Fenton

Headmaster, Reigate Grammar School, Surrey

Francis Green

Professor of Work and Education Economics, UCL Institute of Education, University College London and Research Lead, Private School Policy Reform

James Dahl

Master, Wellington College, Berkshire

Naomi Goldshtein

Senior Manager, Fragomen