The Independent Messenger Autumn 2017

We are delighted to welcome you to the latest edition of The Independent Messenger, which provides an insight into some of the hot topics in independent education. In this latest issue we focus on:

With warm wishes.

John Hutchison, Chief Operating Officer
Gabbitas Education

The Silent Demise …


“April is the cruellest month … “ begins T S Eliot’s magisterial poem The Wasteland. It is also the cruellest month for some in the school calendar, and this year was no exception with yet another reasonably sized and long-standing independent school closing. There may be others heading in the same direction but those involved with these schools do their very best to hide the situation: hence the title of this article.

Given the general funding crisis in the maintained sector and the closure of educational establishments from infant schools to university technical colleges, perhaps we should not be too surprised. However, we firmly believe that some of the closures in our sector need not have happened at all. There appears to be a general unwillingness in many endangered schools to face the facts and more importantly to ask for help before the axe falls. To our recent knowledge some schools have been closed without reference to pupils, parents and staff. The fact such a fait accompli can occur in the charity sector somewhat defies belief.

The main reason for the silence is largely because a school trades on its good name: confidence, even in the direst of circumstances, is the name of the game. Schools fear, and rightly so, the adverse effect on pupil numbers an admission of decline will have. However, the corollary, pupils, parents and staff having no school to return to in September may be considered a worse predicament. Furthermore, it is not just about the school and those immediately affected; often whole communities around the school face a downturn in esteem and business. So it is time the sector addressed this.

Independent education cannot afford to lose any more of its schools. Contrary to some popular opinion, its schools provide far more into their surrounding communities than many maintained schools. As charitable organisations, they understand the full meaning of the word ‘giving’. They not only provide education to a comprehensive intake of pupils, in these days where the talk is of social inclusion and mobility they provide more than their share of opportunities.

Is this article scaremongering? The maintained sector has definite number thresholds with which it considers the viability of schools. In a recent in-house analysis, these numbers were considerably above a very large proportion of numbers in independent school. There are over 400 schools with less than 150 pupils. Although the vast majority of these are Pre-Preparatory and Preparatory Schools, there are a few Senior Schools in this mix. The recently released Independent School Council annual report also points to vulnerability in the sector. In the worst analysis, if there is anyone out there in a single-sex, regional school with boarding, times could be very hard indeed!

There is little doubt that the current economic climate is not the best. The situation is cyclical and things will improve but in every recent downturn, fewer independent schools have emerged from the situation than prior to it. Some vulnerable schools will also emerge stronger but this will be due to benefiting from the pupil gain from others loss. At the other end of the spectrum, the ships of state will sail serenely on, largely as they have the capacity to be flexible. Overall, it is highly unlikely the sector will ever exceed 7% and the main focus should be to keep this as stable as possible.

To anyone out there in trying circumstances, please speak up in good time to an educational consultant who can provide bespoke and confidential advice. If April is to be the cruellest month then be prepared well in advance, as to say people’s lives depended on it would be to understate the obvious.

For more information on School Consultancy, please contact

Be Different!

We are excited to confirm our continued sponsorship of the TES Independent School Awards and our attendance and sponsorship at the HMC Annual Conference in Belfast to ‘celebrate the difference’. 

We chose to support the Senior Leadership Team of the Year category again because in our extensive work with schools, we have come to see the vital part played by many leadership teams first hand. Thank you for all your entries; the shortlist will be announced on November 3rd.

At the HMC Annual Conference in October we are once again sponsoring the afternoon tea for spouses and partners. Our Chief Officer, Director of UKiset and Director of Consultancy will be present over the course of the event and would be delighted to catch up with you.

The theme for this year is ‘celebrate the difference’. With this in mind our Executive Team member, Helen Semple, writes below about a new guide to help schools and families create an inclusive environment.

“In a world of uncertainty and rapid change, an understanding of the concept of self has become higher and higher on the adolescent agenda. Whilst it is positive that increasingly young people feel comfortable identifying as who they wish to be; straight, homosexual, non-binary, trans, faith no faith etc. with this comes a responsibility for schools and families to understand what this means for their young people. Schools are increasingly embracing well-being as an integral part of the school curriculum, but as awareness of diversity grows, now more than ever is there a need for an education to teach inclusion in its broadest sense.

Written by educators, educational specialists, consultants, diversity practitioners and parents, Inclusion Matters is the first resource of its kind to provide background information on English State and Independent Schools statutory obligations under the Equality Act 2010. It offers practical questions in an easy-to-use checklist format to help empower parents and carers to consider and discuss a school’s commitment to LGBT+ inclusion.

Education has the power to transform lives, this we all readily acknowledge but practically how do we do this? All too often I hear of families struggling to find the right school for their child, where they will feel safe, accepted and be able to thrive. This guide not only supports parents choosing the right school but will aid educators assessing their own policies and practices, in order to facilitate the best possible environment for all their young people.

Independent schools are starting on this journey. Summer saw the first independent school participating in the Pride March in Brighton, a growing number of schools embracing the need for Inclusion training for staff, the spattering of inclusion committees being set up and more schools providing non-gender specific uniforms. But there is still a long way to go, and this guide comes at a pivotal point in our educational history, enabling the discussion to continue and parents the permission to believe change is happening within all schools.”

The guide is available online at and more information on inclusion training for schools is available from

Unique International Market Forecasting


Earlier this year, the Independent Schools’ Council (ISC) annual census reported fairly unsensational changes to international student numbers. On the whole it described that the market has remained steady, and has followed the expected economic wobbles in the Eastern European and African markets. However, on closer analysis our experts can see some important factors emerging and are in a unique position to report on upcoming market trends way ahead of future ISC reports.

With access to UKiset registration data, our team can make long range forecasts on international student numbers. Where the most recent and long respected ISC census has looked retrospectively at students who took up places in September 2016, UKiset forecasts look at current applicants, who may not arrive at British schools (and therefore be counted on the ISC census) until September 2018. ISC won’t be able to report on these students until their April 2019 census. Adjustments can be made according to how many applicants are expected to take up places at British schools, and UKiset can calculate where they have a more representative coverage, but we expect to be able to accurately make some market predictions this autumn on international students arriving next year.

From UKiset’s perspective, we observe some trends as they happen. For example, the reported 4% drop in new international students in this year’s census only equates to about 440 students across all ISC member schools. Not a huge amount. But some specific markets have really suffered – with big drops in new Russian (down 18%) and Nigerian (down 30%) students on the previous year. We feel we may have been able to notify our network of schools and agents about this trend as far back as December 2015, some 16 months before ISC census figures were published in April. UKiset registrations from these countries were down significantly during the traditional application period during the summer and autumn of 2015.

Over the same period, we witnessed growth in applicant numbers from the Middle East (as the UAE weathered a dip in their local economy); up 10% on the previous year. Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia and Vietnam have also seen significant rises (on average up 12%) as the region benefits from stable growth. One of our advantages is that unlike the census that reports on large regional markets (i.e. ‘Rest of ECC’), the UKiset database is able to provide data on each country and in some cases, sub-regions and even specific cities.

We see huge value in our real-time data and want to share it effectively amongst our partner schools. In response to positive feedback from schools that use UKiset to recruit overseas students, we are now analysing our observations from this year’s applications to compile a market forecast report ahead of the next ISC census in April 2018. This will be published this autumn and will be available for free.

To receive your free copy, please click here to sign up to our mailing list. For more information on UKiset, please contact

Finance & Law Careers Programmes for Year 12 & 13 Students


A career in Finance or Law can be intellectually challenging, personally fulfilling and financially rewarding. But these are competitive sectors which attract some of the most ambitious and high achieving candidates. So how can students take the first step in the right direction?

Gabbitas Education is delighted to introduce ‘In the City’, a three-day interactive programme supported by senior professionals from leading Finance and Law companies in and around the Bank of England and the Royal Courts of Justice.

Our unique In the City course will enable students to:

  • Acquire knowledge from key companies and their staff
  • Gain insight into a range of roles
  • Experience office life first-hand with site tours and presentations
  • Network amongst influential decision makers
  • Reinforce career choices
  • Improve interview technique
  • Enhance CV and personal statement.

Our Careers Advisers will accompany students throughout the programme and will be on hand to provide assistance and answer questions.

Key information for our In the City Programme:

Where: various central London locations


Finance – Tuesday 24th to Thursday 26th October 2017

Law – Wednesday 25th to Friday 27th October 2017

Timings: 9.30am to 5.00pm

Cost: £550 plus VAT

In order to register interest, please ask students to:

Phone: +44 (0) 20 7734 0161 and ask for Nancy Gilfillan or Nikki Hill



A Recipe for Success


The results achieved by our Guardianship and Hosting students this year were better than ever, with a total of 30 A* and A grades attained and University destinations including Bath, Cambridge, KCL, Oxford, UCL and Warwick. As the country continues its obsession with baking and cooking in general, we thought we’d share with you what we believe are the best ingredients to help ensure the successful placement of international students in the UK …

Preparation Time: the more time you put in, the more you get out

Cooking Time: could be a few years

Serves: the whole community


100g of support, care and communication

100g of organisation and experience

100g of staff trained in safeguarding

100g of FCA and PSR compliance (we do not hold client funds for discretionary purposes)

100g of fresh, locally sourced, organic Gabbitas Education Guardian and Host Families



Experience has taught us that equal measures of each ingredient produce the best results, blended in a cool environment and matured slowly over a moderate heat. Check frequently. Ready, steady, bake!

For more information on our Guardianship and Host Family Services, please contact

Building Better Mental Health

Children today face new challenges such as the demands of 24-hour connectivity on social media, cyber-bulling and sexting. They are also under huge pressure to do well in exams, in the face of an increasingly competitive jobs market. Time and again research has shown these pressures are resulting in a rising tide of mental health issues amongst the young.

For parents, these are unchartered waters and many are looking to schools for guidance and leadership. For schools, this means ensuring that mental health and wellbeing are everyone’s business – for staff and students alike.

In relation to schools, a National Children’s Bureau survey in 2016 showed many school leaders reporting a dramatic increase in the number of students suffering from mental health and wellbeing issues over the past five years. More than half (55%) said there had been a large increase in anxiety or stress and over 40% reported a big increase in the problem of cyberbullying. Nearly eight out of ten (79%) reported an increase in self harm or suicidal thoughts amongst students.

From September 2017, a new Wellbeing Award for Schools, presented by the National Children’s Bureau and Optimus Education Ltd, will recognise outstanding work being done to promote mental health and wellbeing within school communities across England.

The Wellbeing Award for Schools will recognise schools that embed a culture which values the happiness and emotional welfare of all its pupils. Both the Department for Education and Ofsted support this approach, stressing that promoting good mental health is the responsibility of all members of a school community: its staff and governors, parents and pupils, and partner organisations beyond the school gates.

Complementing this award, Optimus Education Ltd will be running its 11th Annual Mental Health & Wellbeing in Schools conference in London and Manchester in November 2017. This well-established event supports teachers who are on the front line and delivers inspirational speakers, quality resources and clarity on how to share learning back at school.

As schools find themselves on the front line identifying and supporting children struggling with their mental health, they must do all they can to ensure that the school ethos promotes mental health as part of school life and the responsibility of all.

For more information on the Optimus Wellbeing awards and conference, please contact

Getting the Best out of China

The UK office for national statistics reported that there were more than 70,000 Chinese students who went to the UK to study between June 2015- June 2016 (valued at 200 billion RMB). As the Chinese ‘Study Abroad’ market continues to grow steadily, it is a logical place for schools to go to for new recruits. But with a market crammed full of local and international agents of various quality, how do you get the most out of your marketing efforts?

Making a marketing/recruitment trip to China has become a very popular and exciting choice among British schools in recent years. But travelling around China on your own and making various arrangements can be quite difficult, hence many schools have chosen to work with Chinese partners to ease the arrangements and maximise results.

Unfortunately, however, we are aware that a number of schools are being over-promised by partners or agents in China. It is therefore quite important for the schools to carefully choose who they work with to avoid any disappointment or, potentially, a trip disaster.

The key things schools should look for when choosing a partner are:

  • Is the partner an organisation with a focus on UK school placements? Many agents might come up with big numbers of students they place every year, but 99% of these students are applicants to universities rather than schools.
  • Does the partner mainly focus on British education? A lot of Chinese agents focus on all the English speaking countries such as US, Australia, Canada, Singapoore and etc.
  • How many offices has the partner got, and where are these offices located?

Gabbitas Education currently has 3 offices in China – Shanghai, Beijing and Guangzhou – covering the major first tier cities and the provinces around these cities, where the highest national GDP % growths are. We provide tailor made services to the very the high end Chinese families.

Our staff have been working closely with British schools on their China visits since 2009. We have arranged large events with over 500 attendees, where the school gives speeches, presentations and shows school videos, as well as smaller seminars where the school representative gets to meet the potential families. The schools can also interview the students and see whether the students would be a suitable candidate.

We have also arranged for UK schools to meet with Chinese bilingual or international schools, where they could discuss a potential co-operation. We help the schools with their visa invitation letters, transport and accommodation arrangements, as well as providing an interpreting service.

Case Study from Windlesham House School visit to China in May 2017:

The admissions representative of Windlesham House School visited Guangzhou on the 17th of May 2017, and attended an event where they made a presentation to an audience of 500 people. After the event, the Windlesham representatives interviewed 12 potential students, and three of them were offered a chance to visit the school for potential enrolment. The school also attended two seminars in Shanghai and Beijing, and met over 20 families.

“The ladies were delighted to meet you and would very much like to thank you for your kind and generous hospitality. We very much look forward to build our working relationship with Gabbitas and look forward to hearing from you shortly.”

For more information on Gabbitas Education in China, please contact