The Independent Messenger

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Spring 2017

And Your Host For Today Is …

Hosting ImageThere are a number of well-publicised challenges facing both schools and families when it comes to investing in boarding accommodation. But there are alternatives, which are becoming increasingly popular.

Of some interest to a sleepless Head may be the new trend that Danielle Flood, our Head of Student Support Services and Guardianship, is working on with a number of schools. “There is increasing interest in placing international students in schools that do not possess boarding facilities or do not wish to throw more money at maintaining the existing ones.” she says. “The ‘host-family’ concept has always had traction but it is now becoming a preferred option for some schools and indeed, some families.”

We have been providing guardian and host families for decades, and we have families who are still in touch with pupils they looked after ten years ago; they arrange to visit them in their home countries, attend university graduations and are even invited to weddings. Matching the best family to the right student is what a successful guardianship agency should do.

Much as this is a very positive experience for most, however, there can be some tough times for some. There have been pupils who have gone out for the day and not returned home, those who have become ill or injured while under their care and required hospital treatment, and pupils who have shown concerning behaviour. While this is difficult for any guardian or host family, a good guardianship agency will be on hand day and night to help support them, the student and the student’s family, whilst working alongside the school.

A very successful school in Norfolk has turned its back on sixth form boarding and gone down this route, other schools see the benefit of maintaining school rolls in difficult times by investing here too. In an age where a win-win scenario is rare, it may be time for boarding schools with small numbers to divest themselves of all the costs, particularly those involving regulation and infrastructure and move to this model. We work closely with Peter Goddard, Director of Development and Engagement at Norwich School, who sees guardianship as a vital element of student support. “We needed someone who would look after the welfare of the children we bring over to the UK and we now have peace of mind 24/7,” said Peter.

Take a look at our video in which international students talk about their experiences of living with families in the UK.

For more information on Guardianship and Day School Hosting, please contact

A Uniform Experience


If you go into any Costa or Ritz-Carlton franchise around the world, it is likely you will have a recognisably familiar experience. Teams of franchising experts ensure your ‘customer journey’ is as uniform as possible, wherever you are. So how did this work when Haileybury UK branched out overseas?

Haileybury UK is a thriving co-educational boarding and day school. Against this successful backdrop and its already close and special links with former pupils and parents from Kazakhstan, the College decided to branch out overseas and open the first branded UK Independent school in Central Asia. It now has two schools in Kazakhstan and the first, in Almaty (the other is in the capital, Astana), celebrates its ten year anniversary in 2018.

Each school, unlike their coffee or hotel counterparts, is very different in look: both from the other but also from the UK ‘Mother Ship’. To replicate the grand dome of the chapel and the stunning quad setting would be out of context in the environment in which the schools have been built. However, the guardians of the Haileybury name and those charged with ensuring that the quality of education is not compromised are determined to bring as much of the original DNA to these new schools.

In Kazakhstan, the franchisees are extremely ambitious and rightly so. They are looking to create two of the best schools in the world. With the educational expertise of the UK brand and the willingness of the shareholders to see each school as social projects where every penny of surplus is reinvested into the school and scholarship programme for deserving pupils, they are aiming high.

But for Haileybury UK, as with all UK branded schools, there is a challenge to operating overseas. They have to protect the brand name and thus ensure the highest possible educational provision. They do this by sound governance but also by regular support of the overseas schools from educational experts in the UK. It is not an easy tightrope to walk as the parents of the UK school expect a focus on their children, as do the equally demanding Kazakh parents.

Fortunately, the key staff in this matrix are experienced and aware of how to satisfy both. Sharon Mohan, Senior Recruitment Consultant at Gabbitas Education, observes, “It has traditionally been a challenge to recruit high quality expat staff, of which the Haileybury schools are 95% staffed, but as the quality of the best overseas schools rises so does the quality of talent that is attracted to them.”

Gabbitas Education recently worked with Haileybury UK to place a new Head, Jonathan Ullmer MBE, in Astana. Kathryn Walsh from Haileybury UK commented on the service received, “Gabbitas were available to me at all times if there was a query, and were always professional.”

Jonathan says of the school, “The facilities are world class and the children all aspire to attend the best universities in the world. It is an inspiring place to teach and learn.” And of his experience of working with Gabbitas Education, “I have appreciated the contact and support from the team at Gabbitas, where issues were picked up and dealt with and led to a successful appointment.”

For Haileybury, the schools in Kazakhstan represent their entry into the overseas educational market. Their acquired knowledge and understanding of what it takes to make an overseas British International school outstanding makes it very likely that there will be more to come.

Read more about our work with Haileybury to appoint Jonathan Ullmer MBE

For more information on Recruitment, please contact

Taking Up Residence


A recent development growing in popularity is ‘residential tuition’, whereby the tutor spends a lengthier period of time with the family either living at their home or accompanying them on trips during the holiday periods. 

Residential tuition can be a fantastic way of having the time to work through basic concepts for a topic without the time limit of normal hourly tuition. It provides the student with the space to ask every question they want without the pressure of the classroom environment and to go over it often enough for their confidence to build.
Maureen Hooley, Director of Services to Families and Students at Gabbitas Education, comments, “Having a tutor come into a family’s life for a week or more can be helpful in many other ways too. They’re often well educated, ambitious young people who act as mentors for the students. For students who aren’t keen on school it can be a real boost to see someone who is openly a bit geeky and genuinely loves their range of subjects.”
There are brilliant teaching resources available online now and it massively enriches the learning environment that might otherwise be a hotel room, cafe half way up a mountain, or a patio by the sea. So if the family is going somewhere without internet access, they need to warn the tutor! So many tuition resources are now saved online and it saves tutors carting round huge libraries of books and past papers.

We caught up with a Gabbitas Education residential tutor, Tadhgh Barwell O’Connor (a Cambridge graduate with much tutoring experience), to ask him about his residential assignments: “Don’t underestimate how much learning takes place during the ‘down time’ with the tutor. While the ‘academic tuition’ is clear from the outset, tutors enjoy taking part in family activities if it’s appropriate for the time and place.”

We recently welcomed the Good Schools Guide into our offices to review our services to families and students, including tutoring. Follow this link to find out more about what they had to say.

For more information on our Services to Families and Students, please contact

Testing, Testing: 1-2-3


Rewind 3 years and the UKiset test was being designed to address the myriad ways that independent schools were recruiting international students. Each school had their own system, largely assessing what the applicant knew about the British curriculum using tests devised, arranged and marked by their own staff. Prospective families navigated their way through each school’s policies and could wait weeks to find out about their fate. Today, many of the same schools use UKiset to assess international applications.
Using an objective test of underlying academic potential and English language skill, schools spend their valuable time on the most suitable applicants. Prior to UKiset there were few ways for these students to know what the academic standards are in the UK, and if they would be able to keep up with their British peers. Standardised scores provide a direct comparison between the candidate’s abilities and students in the UK – both nationally and within the independent schools sector.Alison Stanbury, Walden School, says: “It is difficult to know what international applicants are really like in terms of future potential, so UKiset helps enormously in this way. It is also a good message to send to overseas students and agencies that the school takes testing seriously.”With increased competition for limited places, an assessment to differentiate applicant qualities has become increasingly necessary. At a recent gathering of registrars from leading British schools in which we reported on market trends and lessons learned, it was clear that UKiset has changed the way we approach international applications.Anastasia Hatvany, Registrar at Downside, said: “All of the information is hugely helpful. We accepted a Year 10 boy from Hong Kong on UKiset alone and looking at his most recent report, UKiset was an excellent indication of promise.”

UKiset is proud to have recently assessed its 5000th candidate since our launch in September 2014 and having sent profiles to over 300 British schools; we are looking towards the future. As evidenced at the recent BAISIS conference UKiset attended, British curriculum schools overseas are increasingly keen to demonstrate that they are as good as their British counterparts and UKiset is a good measure to see how they compare.

When asked what the future of entry testing may hold, Alastair Montgomery, Director of UKiset, says, “Further innovation in looking deeper at applicant skills will extend the kind of profiling entry testing can achieve. Schools are becoming interested in considering and assessing soft skills such as social acuity, resilience and attitudes towards learning. Future tests might include modules designed to look at a wider range of skills in order to find the right fit for the right environment.”

For more information on UKiset, please contact 

Our Past … Your Future

Since our humble beginnings in 1873, consultancy in the sector has moved on a great deal. Our services have developed from supplying schoolmasters to English public schools to helping build, resource and improve schools and support families in over 40 countries.

In the year we first began supporting independent education, Gladstone was coming to the end of his first ministry. It was also the year in which Napoleon III died at Chislehurst, the cities of Buda and Pest joined to become the capital of Hungary and Major Wingfield introduced the modern game of tennis. Many things in and around education have changed too since then but our dedication to education has remained. In the age of Theresa May, Gabbitas Education is now part of the wider educational network, The Prospects Group, which includes our new sister companies Optimus Education and 3BM, and offers far more into the market place than simply the ‘placement of the sons of Empire’.

As the company grew ‘placement’ led to ‘guardianship’, ‘tutoring’ led to ‘recruitment’, ‘profiling’ led to ‘ground-breaking entry testing’ and all under the name of general consultancy. Today, we continue to offer these support services, many in modern guises and in recent years Gabbitas Education has added a new dimension with international offices in China, the Middle East and a Russian language desk in our central London headquarters. 

We now provide advice on new-builds, deliver bespoke feasibility studies, confidential ‘turnaround’ projects and new approaches to market. Alongside our sister companies, we can offer one-stop solutions to most educational opportunities.

Our Director of School Consultancy, Tim Wilbur, says “For many years we produced a newsletter into the independent school community considering the issues of the day and offering our expert opinion and help. This new communication is to renew that voice and to remind the sector we continue to offer first-class support over a range of educational services.”

Take a look at our video one of our recent consultancy and recruitment projects; the new Arcadia Preparatory School in Dubai – what a transformation! 


For more information on School Consultancy, please contact