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LAND ON YOUR FEET Why more schools are investing in property to supplement their income

Marketing: a dirty word? Why some private schools shy away from the ‘M’ word

Getting outdoors will do your pupils a world of good

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05 News The latest news and developments in the world of independent schools 08 Analysis Needs must What does the rising number of SEN pupils in private education mean for independent schools? MARKETING AND DEVELOPMENT 12 Marketing A dirty word? A look at why some private schools shy away from the ‘M’ word 16 Case study Free spirits The City of London Freemen’s School’s plans for development 20 Uniforms The devil’s in the details How accessories can make or break your school’s uniform branding

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Independent Executive, brought to you by the publishers of Education Executive, is a bi-monthly magazine that supports business and financial excellence in the modern UK independent school – whether it be fee-paying, an academy or a free school. Every issue features a host of original editorial content aimed at bursars, headteachers, finance directors and development officers and focused on issues to do with the financial and administrative management of a school.


PROCURE AND PLAN 24 Premises A grounded approach Why your pupils would do better outside the classroom sometimes 26 Legal Land on your feet More schools invest in property to supplement their income 30 Procurement Fiscal factions There is money to be saved thanks to group buying initiatives MANAGEMENT 32 HR Incentivise this How the right staff incentives could put some oil in your HR cogs 34 Top tips 10 habits of a bad manager The 10 things a good manager should never do under any circumstance ICT MATTERS 36 Overview Pimp your classroom Why schools should have better ICT than what students get at home 40 Case study Virtual reality One public school turns to virtual desktops to fix IT woes 44 Techno Geek Got game? How the right games can aid learning INSPIRED MINDS

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46 Interview The Mr Magoo show Founder of the Knightsbridge School Magoo Giles on his new prep school



ith the summer months upon us, it’s the perfect time to think outside the box. And when I say ‘box’, I mean the geometrical confines of the school building. For this issue, I had the pleasure of speaking to Mary Jackson, co-founder of the International School Grounds Alliance and long-time driving force behind Learning through Landscapes. She’s evangelistic about the importance of bringing lessons outside, whether the sun is shining or not (with this changeable weather, relying on a sunny day could be a deal breaker). In my interview with her on p24, she told me a bit about what schools are doing around the world to make the most of school grounds, and it seems there are certainly trends for different countries. For example, in the US, particularly California, there is a tendency to favour organic food cultivation, while in Scandinavia it’s all about making use of the rugged landscape and Australia uses the outside as an opportunity to teach about better sun protection. So what about the UK? According to Mary, the UK is actually the best for doing a little bit of everything. But there’s still room for more. While she says junior schools are doing a great deal of work in the outdoors, senior schools have more room to grow in this area. If you’re in need of ideas for getting outside, you’ll want to see what she says. At the heart of it is the idea that learning and fun-time should not be seen as binaries and a clever school mixes them up. This enjoyment approach to teaching and learning is happening inside the classroom as well, particularly within the world of ICT, with gaming becoming a useful tool for teachers. Where the Xbox and 3D technology may once have been seen as a distraction, it seems that if schools don’t catch up with what pupils are using at home, they run the risk of seeming out-dated and looking left behind. For more on the latest trends in classroom technology, see our article in our ICT Matters section (p36) for what you can do to upgrade your kit. In the meantime, I hope the summer months give you a chance to get outside and have a bit of fun yourself. Let’s just hope the weather holds up. Bye for now.

50 Diary The social network Headmaster of Glebe House School on creating a social network

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Bursars in demand at academies


INDEPENDENT SCHOOLS WELCOME CHANGES TO ICT CURRICULUM Nearly two-thirds of independents agree with changes to government ICT policy, compared to only a quarter of state schools Despite being free from government control, independent schools have a more positive view of the government’s current ICT policy than state schools, a survey has revealed. The findings, from the British Educational Suppliers Association (BESA), come from an annual survey into the views of 148 independent school ICT leaders, the majority of whom operate within the Independent Schools Council (ISC), and provide insight into school technology use. The first disparity between the independent and state sector was general awareness of the Government’s new ICT policy, with 87% of independent schools aware of the curriculum changes, compared to just 70.5% of state schools. However, it is when the research turned to schools’ reaction to the ICT policy that the difference is most marked. Although some schools understood the details of the policy more than others, 62% of independent schools felt the Government was on the right track, while just 26% of state schools held the same view. Ray Barker, the director of BESA, commented: “The findings will not be good news to the Government. However, when we consider the fact that the foundation of the Government’s policy sits on an increasing level of freedom and autonomy for schools, it is not surprising that the independent school’s sector understands and feels a closer alliance to the recent policy changes.” Barker continued: “As an increasing

Fast facts • 87% of independent schools are aware of the change in ICT policy • 62% agree with the changes • a fifth or prep schools and twothirds of senior schools feel under-resourced.

number of state schools convert to become academies with independent school status, we are starting to see government policies that possibly sit more comfortably with independent schools, who are more akin to managing themselves.” The study also revealed that independent schools are having less success integrating interactive whiteboards into lessons than state schools, with only a third of preparatory and half of senior schools doing so successfully. ICT leaders in independent schools continue to indicate under-resourcing of laptops and system software, with a fifth of prep and two-thirds of senior schools complaining from too few laptops and 15% of schools reporting a lack in system and general software. Broadband bandwidth is set to rise by 7Mbps in 2013, while 24% and 33% respectively are predicted to continue to be under-resourced with online digital content next year. Tablets are not having the success once thought in private schools, with only eight per cent of preparatory and five per cent of senior schools “well-resourced” with the technology, while only 15% of the former and 22% of the latter cite lack of teacher interest as the barrier to adoption. In terms of operating systems, Windows 7 remains predominant in the independent classroom (40% of schools), while only around 10% use Apple OSX. Total spend on ICT in the independent sector is set to decline this year, though some elements, like broadband and technical support, are set to grow. Preparatory schools are forecasting a decline in ICT spending by -5.1% in 2012, generally stemming from networking and peripheral items (down by 13%). Meanwhile, senior schools are forecasting ICT spend down -3.7 % with computer hardware purchases most likely to be hit (down by -7.5%).

Eighty-five per cent of academies think their increased financial freedoms will pressure them to spend money more wisely, according to a survey. The study also revealed that 76% of business managers and bursars’ roles had changed since becoming academies and over two-thirds said there had been an increase in the level of financial management. Paul Metcalfe, academy sector manager, at Capita SIMS, which conducted the survey, commented: “Converting to an academy necessitates a number of adjustments, with one of the biggest changes being the increased level of financial management. The legal requirements of becoming an academy make the financial accounting for an academy much more complex than that of a maintained school and it seems that this is translating into the school business manager, in particular, feeling greater responsibility for the school’s financial performance.” Nearly 40% of academies have brought or plan to bring in more staff to help manage new financial responsibilities, and 20% have secured a qualified accountant.

Class act for pupils at Chelsea Flower Show Year 6 pupils from Knightsbridge School collaborated with designers/parents Roger Egerickx and Fiona Barnett to create a garden at this year’s RHS Chelsea Flower Show in May. Entitled ‘Planting the Idea’, the garden was exhibited in a new section called ‘RHS Environment’, the theme of which was ‘urban greening’. The concept was that even the most unpromising urban environment can be transformed with thought and application and as such, it featured graffitied walls, urban sculpture and an abandoned car. “We are delighted to have been given this opportunity by the RHS and thrilled with what the children have achieved,” said headteacher Magoo Giles in the run-up to the event. “It has broadened their imaginations. I am sure all those going to the Chelsea Flower Show will be impressed and intrigued by what they see.”

Turn to page 46 for a full interview with headteacher Magoo Giles.



SCHOOLS MAKE THE MOST OF QUEEN’S JUBILEE THE QUEEN’S SCHOOL, Chester THE CITY OF LONDON FREEMEN’S SCHOOL, Surrey Schools all over the country took part in celebrations in honour of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee last month. Girls from The Queen’s School in Chester were VIP guests at the opening of the Diamond Jubilee Quarter at Chester Zoo and also gained royal permission for a sponsored Queen’s to Queen Bike Ride. On learning that pupils would be cycling from The Queen’s School in Chester to Buckingham Palace in July, Joëlle Warren, Vice Lord Lieutenant of Cheshire, along with Cllr Eleanor Johnson, Lord Mayor of Chester and chairman of Cheshire West and Chester Council, arranged for them to be given VIP status for the zoo visit. The sponsored bike ride is in aid of the school’s bursary fund and selected charities and will be completed by girls and staff, including headmistress Sarah Clark, who will be cycling over 200 miles. The event has been authorised by the Cabinet Office as an official part of The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations. Meanwhile, The City of London Freemen’s School held a Diamond Jubilee street party on 30 May. Pupils, staff and governors were treated to some British classics on the piano, courtesy of the music department, along with a sing song of the National Anthem, which could be heard from Leatherhead to Epsom. Pupils dressed to impress in red, white and blue or 1950s attire, and to finish off, the chairman of the board of governors was tasked with picking the winners in the Key Stage 2 hat parade. “It was a party to live long in the memory, one could say it was a right royal knees up,” said marketing and admissions manager, Mike Holland. The City of London Freemen’s School’s red, white and blue Jubilee street party

The Apprentice comes to Dorset SHERBORNE GIRLS, Dorset

A team of middle fifth students from Sherborne Girls in Dorset has fought off competition from 30 schools to make it to the next round of ‘Ahead of the Game’, a national competition, initiated by the Girls’ Schools Association (GSA), and backed by former BBC Apprentice finalist Claire Young, to find young entrepreneurial stars. Sherborne Girls was one of 10 schools chosen to go through to the second of four regional Enterprise Days, which aim to encourage girls to take risks and “think like an entrepreneur”. With an initial budget of £500, Maddie Barber, Flora Ritchie, Rachel Bucklow, Andie Vinycomb and Alicia Baines (pictured) impressed the panel of judges with their plan to turn a vacant shop on the Sherborne High Street into an interactive tourist centre. The next round involves putting a highly detailed business plan together outlining exactly how they would organise and utilise the empty shop unit, but in order for their business plan to be considered by the judges, they have to successfully take an initial investment of £50 and turn it into £500 by the end of September using any enterprise they can. Headmistress Jenny Dwyer commented: “This is a huge challenge, but the team has great enthusiasm and is convinced that they can achieve it. The girls have put a lot of effort into this competition and their hard work has paid off. We wish them all the luck as they go into the next round.”

Vice Lord Lieutenant of Cheshire Joëlle Warren and Jonathan Cheatle from Cycling Projects meets the Queen to Queen’s Diamond Jubilee cyclists

Girls and staff from The Queen’s to Queen cycling team meet Cllr Eleanor Johnson – Lord Mayor of Chester and chairman of Cheshire West and Chester Council at the Chester Zoo



Channing School development gets the green light


A £6.5m plan for developing The Highgate day school has been granted planning permission by local council CHANNING SCHOOL, Highgate

Youngsters aged five to 15 are invited to take part in three weeks of Olympic-themed games as part of the popular annual SummerFest at St Edmund’s School in Canterbury (23 July – 10 August)


Alison Appleyard with students from St Aidan’s Academy Darlington

academic achievements, behaviour and ethos with elements of the academy being rated as good in the most recent Ofsted inspection. Appleyard is delighted to be appointed as the first principal of the new Isle of Portland Aldridge Community Academy: “Portland is a very special place and this is a unique and exciting opportunity to serve the young people and community of the island. “I will be sad to leave St Aidan‘s but can look with pride on the strides it has made in its opening years. I have always said that it is on a journey and whoever comes into the job next will have plenty to look forward to.” St Aidan’s chair of governors, the reverend canon Sheila Bamber said: “Alison has done a fantastic job during her time as principal and we will be sad to see her go. She has provided the driving force needed to improve attainment and behaviour at the academy. The improvements are there for everyone to see. The process of selecting her successor will start now.” The new academy in Dorset will be sponsored by the Aldridge Foundation, with Dorset County Council as co-sponsors. Education expert Professor Stephen Heppell will be the academy’s patron. The Aldridge Foundation is an educational charity founded by Sir Rod Aldridge to help young people reach their potential through education and through support for community regeneration. Photo: Keith Blundy/Aegies Associates

Alison Appleyard, the principal of St Aidan’s Church of England Academy in Darlington, is leaving her post to take on a new challenge in southern England. The Isle of Portland Aldridge Community Academy Trust in Dorset has announced Appleyard’s appointment as the academy’s first principal. She will take up the new position at the end of the year. Honor Wilson-Fletcher, chair of governors designate at the new academy, said: “Portland deserves an exceptional academy that improves opportunities for all the children on the island and that requires an exceptional principal as leader. In Alison, I am sure we have found just that.” Appleyard has been at St Aidan’s since it was established five years ago, when it replaced Eastbourne Comprehensive School and became Darlington’s first academy. Since then, she has overseen its move to a new site and presided over improvements in

Plans for a £6.5m development of Channing School in Highgate have been granted planning permission by the London Borough of Haringey. The plans will see two buildings added to the independent day school’s estate, the orientation of which will define a new ‘village green’ that is hoped will form the heart of the school, with landscaped play spaces and covered walkways to connect the school’s departments. In addition to the new buildings, which will also house sports facilities and teaching accommodation, the Founders’ Hall will be converted into a facility for music and the performing arts. Set within a conservation area, the scale of new buildings for the sport hall, changing rooms and new teaching facilities have been designed to remain sensitive to the adjacent listed buildings on campus. Paul White, director of architects BuckleyGrayYeoman, said: “We have designed a scheme that stitches together the school’s heritage with new, confident architecture.”

WE ARE LOOKING FOR LOCAL SCHOOL NEWS. If you have a story to share, please get in touch on INDEPENDENT EXECUTIVE | JUL/AUG 2012 07





The number of children and young people with SEN attending private schools has tripled over the past decade according to research. But what is causing this change, and what does it mean for independent schools? Carrie Service takes a look


here has been an influx of children with special educational needs attending schools in the private sector over the past ten years, according to a recent survey by The Bow Group. This could be attributed to the public’s general lack of confidence in the Government’s approach to SEN in mainstream schools, which it is hoped will be addressed by changes outlined in the new green paper. Proposals in the report include greater control over SEN funding for parents and also local authorities being required to provide clearer more readily available information about which schools – including independents – can cater for SEN children. Independent schools are evidently becoming a popular option and Eran Arden, CEO at Timocco, a company that designs interactive games to improve key skills in children with special needs says it’s all down to the quality time that independent schools can provide for their pupils: “In a class of thirty, it is extremely difficult for just one teacher to give every pupil the interaction and support they need and, in the case of SEN children particularly, one-on-one contact can be vital. Private schools tend to have significantly smaller classes and therefore more contact time and support is given to each pupil.” There is evidence on internet forums that supports this point of view, including a post on that reads: “I have two kids – a ten-year-old daughter with dyslexic diagnosis – paid for by us because no one would believe there was a ‘problem’ – and a seven-year-old boy who is obviously dyslexic. Moved them last September to private school as state school wouldn’t help as they weren’t ‘bad enough’ and lots of other children were much worse off than them.” The poster added that both her children were now getting “great support” at private school and making good progress. ARE YOU UP TO IT? Until recently, independent schools were not required to follow government guidelines regarding SEN, however they are now expected to ‘take note’ of the legislation. How this is interpreted is for the individual school to decide, but ignoring it could mean missing out on a significant and worthwhile opportunity to make a difference to children’s learning and increase admissions. Heather Stack, director and SEN consultant at Learning Services, feels particularly strongly about the private sector’s potential to become more involved in SEN provision. She suggests that independent schools could step in and cater to needs that parents feel are not being met: “Mainstream secondary schools too frequently over-promise and under-deliver, when it comes to the reality of provision following primary-secondary transition… The needs of the young person that were formerly prioritised by the primary school are now sidelined by the secondary as other more urgent and challenging needs absorb all resources, time and personnel.” Whether or not this is the experience of the majority, it goes without saying that private schools have the potential to offer the one-to-one teaching and care that many parents are looking for. GETTING TECHNICAL One area that can really give your SEN provision a boost is ICT. Investing in the right technology to engage children and allow them to break down physical and mental barriers can have a real impact on their progress and on parents’ INDEPENDENT EXECUTIVE | JUL/AUG 2012 09


Investing in the right technology to engage children and allow them to break down physical and mental barriers can have a real impact on their progress


decisions to choose your school. Kelli Hodges, global education manager at Dell, believes complementing good teaching with the right resources to meet unique learning needs is vital: “Technology brings even more possibilities to help meet individual needs. When paired with teacher professional learning, dedication from teachers, support and encouragement from parents plus the right resources, we have seen that it can have a lasting impact.” Utilising technology with SEN pupils can help teaching staff to create lessons that are better catered to differentiation teaching: “Children with SEN all require very specific support and what is right for one pupil may not be right for another,” says Arden. Using games and software that facilitate the adaptation of settings to suit each individual child enables teachers to create lessons that allow for differentiation not only within the class as a whole, but also variances between each SEN child. A child with Asperger’s Syndrome will have completely different needs to a child with Dyslexia or physical disabilities. Adaptable and easy-to-use technology such as games consoles and tablet computers, which can be modified using accessories such as mounts for wheelchair users, are a great way of increasing inclusion in class activities. The Inspire IT programme at Action for Children is working with Dell to explore how technology can improve the outcomes of young people with a range of needs. Jamie Chalmers, who manages the project, believes that social media is a powerful tool that all schools should be tapping into for SEN children. “We know that young people benefit from communicating and sharing their experiences with one another and that social networks and new media can provide a mechanism for this to happen,” explains Chalmers. “Clearly there are safeguarding issues that must be addressed, but we’ve learned that the benefits to be gained from this kind of connection make the managed risks worthwhile.” Chalmers points out that users with additional needs are often hampered by communication challenges, yet hardware and software exists that can help them overcome those barriers. “They have

the same needs for peer support as everyone else, but their inability to communicate often prevents this from taking place,” he adds. Creating connections via social networking could also raise awareness of your school in the SEN community, allowing knowledge and best practice to be shared, whilst enabling pupils to build networks and make friends. LEGAL ADVICE Although you will not be obligated to adhere to the same regulations for SEN as state schools, it is no longer the case that independent schools are completely exempt from them, as the Good Schools Guide explains: “Independent schools are required to take note of legislation, which previously they could ignore. Excellent guidelines are now in place for the adoption of a wholeschool special needs policy and it would be remarkable to find an independent school that does not attend carefully to the drawing up and execution of such a document.” It is worth noting that there can be no exceptions to this and even “highly academic” schools cannot be exempt from drawing up a special needs policy. So it is vital that you seek advice if the integration of special needs provision is a relatively new area for you, especially as we are in the midst of changes to government policy. SEN Legal, a firm specialising in educational law, has seen many cases where parents have accused schools of misinforming them regarding their child’s special educational needs: “We have had a number of cases involving independent schools – historic and current – in which incorrect advice has been given to the parent regarding SEN, and also in which the schools have created enormous problems for themselves by not understanding that they have a statutory duty to make reasonable adjustments under the Equality Act.” Failure to make reasonable adjustments could amount to disability discrimination and breach of contract resulting in possible legal action, so be sure that your SENCO (special educational needs coordinator) is in the know, as they are not required to have the same official recognition as in state schools. 


Marketing a dirty word?

What’s wrong with marketing? Why do private schools hide away their PR and marketing initiatives behind phrases like ‘business development’? Surely the more popular a school is, the better off its pupils are? Carrie Service investigates 12 INDEPENDENT EXECUTIVE | JUL/AUG 2012



arketing is a bit of a taboo topic for some private schools, with many opting to call the person who is responsible for it the ‘business development manager’ or ‘registrar’. As the state sector becomes more commercially minded in its approach to education, are independent schools in danger of losing out if they don’t make the most of marketing opportunities, and if so, why are they so afraid of it? One factor that might be affecting how private schools view marketing is what is implied by actively seeking to publicise your school, says Jessica Ilenkiw, sales manager at school marketing firm FSE Design: “I think that schools avoid the term ‘marketing’ as in the past it may have had negative connotations for them. The first schools to properly explore marketing themselves tended to be those that were undersubscribed and needed to find ways to attract new pupils without relying on reputation alone. This has previously led to the view by some that any school that is heavily marketing themselves is lacking in some way.” The perception of teachers and other longstanding staff members of a school can also be an issue, as Tim Latham, from business strategy firm Unconsultancy, explains: “We have to face the fact that what a good, competent marketer means by the word ‘marketing’ can be very different to a teacher’s perception of the word.” This is why it might be worthwhile taking on someone whose sole responsibility is marketing, by either outsourcing or having a dedicated staff member. Having the headteacher or someone who is emotionally involved with the school may actually become a hindrance to the marketing strategy. “The marketer knows that his or her role is not just about wrapping the school up in appealing packaging and pushing it like double glazing to all comers. Rather, their role should be about identifying, anticipating and satisfying pupil and parent needs and in the process creating a surplus,” explains Latham. MARKETING MISCONCEPTIONS The aversion to marketing evident in some independent schools could in part be due to bad experiences they may have had in the past which have stuck with them, or because the school has been put off by how others have approached their marketing and are worried they may fall into the same trap. “If the common room’s perception of marketing is billboards, junk emails, flyers and the sort of selling that we see on the BBC’s Apprentice then we can see why marketing might be a word to be avoided,” observes Latham. It could also be the case that schools may be taking into account the sensitivities of parents who might not want to be bombarded: “Whether it is true or not, as parents we want to feel that we are sending our children to a school that is naturally oversubscribed rather than one that has had to ‘resort’ to marketing itself,” he adds. Ilenkiw thinks that times are changing, however, and believes more schools should be getting on board and embracing the opportunity to increase admissions: “As time has gone on, and certainly over the last five years, the education sector has become increasingly varied and competitive. More and more schools have had to develop marketing plans or risk losing students to those who are promoting themselves effectively.” Many schools have been lucky enough to cruise along on the wave of their good reputation and perhaps relied on the fact that many families consistently put their children through the same school over the generations. But the next couple of years could be a rude awakening for some, says Ilenkiw, as the onset of academies has turned marketing into a necessity if you want to stay ahead: “No longer can being oversubscribed mean you can rest on your laurels. Many state schools and new academies are now savvy enough in marketing to direct their message to your target audience and potentially steal students away.” CHANGING ATTITUDES A major concern for schools when embarking on a marketing campaign and deciding which direction to take INDEPENDENT EXECUTIVE | JUL/AUG 2012 13


it in is the risk of appearing too commercialised and profit driven. But this doesn’t have to be the case if you go about things in the right way, advises Ilenkiw: “‘Selling out’ could be a concern to schools, but if marketing is done in a considered way, this does not need to be an issue.” Taking the softly softly approach is often the most productive method of getting your message across anyway. “Marketing your school doesn’t need to be all bells and whistles – often the most effective marketing in this area is understated and refined. A lot of our time is spent quietly building up a core ‘brand’ for the school through prospectus brochures, websites, stationery, signage etc. By creating an easily recognisable brand in a local area you can remind parents of your presence without ‘selling out’.” One way of doing this is to let parents know of your whereabouts in advance by sending out branded newsletters to prospective parents at feeder schools. This will keep them informed of the school’s progress, without resorting to shouty, ‘sign up now’ messages. “If you can reach parents early and keep in their minds, unobtrusively, then you have more chance of being a strong choice for them when the time comes,” says Ilenkiw. BY ANY OTHER NAME As long as you are getting your message across to the right people, it doesn’t really matter how you label the marketing process at your school. “The avoidance of the word ‘marketing’ should not lead to the avoidance of the practice of marketing,” says Latham. It’s just as 14 INDEPENDENT EXECUTIVE | JUL/AUG 2012

important to keep those already involved with the school happy as it is to impress newcomers, so if this means keeping with old traditions, it might be counterproductive to against the tide. “If [in] the common room, parents and maybe the individual feel more comfortable being called the director of communications then so be it. The marketing purist will point out that communications is only one element of marketing, but in my view that doesn’t matter – if the job title grates with the internal or external stakeholders then change the title,” he adds. However, it is more than likely that you have been dedicating a great deal of time to marketing without realising it, so giving it a formal title and dedicated budget could simply help you to better manage the costs and working hours required for it, and ensure that it never gets neglected. There is still some way to go with regards to where independent schools rank marketing in the grand scheme of things and it can easily be put on the backburner or only given a token acknowledgement: “Schools normally have quite tight budgets and therefore have been inclined to hire marketing people at the lower end of the cost spectrum who maybe aren’t very well equipped to make an impact with fresh ideas and new insights, and therefore sadly many schools are undifferentiated,” reflects Latham. A great way of marketing on a budget, without looking too contrived or commercial, is to get your alumni involved by contacting ex-pupils who have an interesting story to tell. If an ex-member of the school is willing to champion your achievements, it will seem more sincere and less profit-driven. 






Starting life as an orphan school in Brixton over 150 years ago, the City of London Freemen’s School now resides on a sprawling campus in Surrey and caters to boys and girls who seek a broad and allencompassing curriculum. Julia Dennison visits headmaster Philip MacDonald and marketing manager Michael Holland


n arrival at the City of London Freemen’s School in Ashtead Park, Surrey, visitors are presented with a map to find their way around the extensive 57 acres of school grounds. It’s a welcome gesture, as winding your way to the headmaster’s office, which resides in a manor house at the heart of the leafy, topiaried campus, would be a challenge even for the most directionally-gifted. When I visit, it’s the first fine day of summer. After months of cold weather, most of the pupils are outside in one of the school’s many sports fields. There’s a casual happiness about the place, where pupils seem to enjoy a freedom that befits its name. Of course, being a ‘Freemen’s School’ has little to do with its flexible curriculum or the freedoms of its pupils, but rather it has its origins deeply rooted in its history as a school for orphans of the Freemen of the City. A HISTORY OF CHANGE Founded and owned by the Corporation of London, the City of London Freemen’s School was first opened in Brixton in 1854, but moved to Ashtead in 1926. From the 1960s, the school underwent a period of rapid expansion, both in pupil numbers and facilities. This included a swimming pool, assembly hall, and the junior school. The expansion continued into the 1990s with a new sports hall, art and design centre, science and technology building, theatre and senior school. There are still more plans for expansion, and as I meet marketing, admissions and development manager Michael Holland and headmaster Philip MacDonald, both make it clear that the school has a definite vision for its future. FOCUS ON THE FUTURE The school is in the process of undertaking even more building works, including constructing a new boarding house (it’s currently home to around 50 boarders, the majority of whom are from Hong Kong) which it will adapt to allow for flexi-boarding.

“What needed looking at here was the way the facilities are organised,” says MacDonald of the plans. “The school came through in the early 2000s a building programme, including a science block, an arts block and teaching blocks, but there were certain aspects of our provision that hadn’t really been looked at – chief amongst these was music.” As a result, the school has plans to build a purpose-built music department. To date, it’s worked out of a room in the main building, which will now be turned into a new dining room that will be better able to serve the 880 pupils than the existing, much smaller area. Further plans for development include refurbishing the main building, adding new changing rooms, a sixth form café and knocking down the building that currently holds the swimming pool to make way for an updated version. Development will begin this summer, provided the school gets planning permission and the OK from English Heritage (the land is listed). Once allowed to take place, the works are expected to take eight years, with most done over school holidays to avoid disruption. Holland is also building a new website for the school, which is due to go live in September. “The current one is a bit dated and hard to update. It’s more a broadcasting tool than a two-way website,” he explains. “My main aim will be to get people interacting with the school.” Why so much change? “A school has to develop; buildings do time-expire and needs change,” says MacDonald. “It’s part of a natural cycle and since the school has been on this site, there has been that cycle of change. Maybe in another 70 years, the buildings that we now regard as new will reach the end of their life [and be replaced], and that’s what schools do. It’s the organic quality of schools: not only do the pupils and staff change, but the buildings do too – over a long period.” With the support of the City of London, the school is able to achieve all this using its own resources, something which MacDonald works very hard to make the very most of. “We have to manage INDEPENDENT EXECUTIVE | JUL/AUG 2012 17


resources carefully. We can’t throw money at whatever comes along, because otherwise a school like this cannot plan for its future.” Ever-altruistic in its approach, the City of London Freemen’s School is also looking to expand the bursary provision it offers. While it is still possible for orphan children to be educated at the school as ‘Foundationers’, with the costs of their education covered by the Corporation of London, MacDonald has plans to raise money to allow more pupils to come to the school who could not otherwise afford it. TRADITIONAL ROOTS “To me one of the strengths of the school is we’re very much a modern, progressive school, but we don’t forgot our history and our traditions,” says Holland. For example, every March the whole school visits the City of London and the Lord Mayor of London attends on prize day in July. Holland says having the support of the City of London Corporation gives the school a safety net during financially challenging times. “Parents can be reassured that our school is not going to go under because it has the City of London behind it,” says Holland, who reassures that the school has not had much fallout from the recession. There are other ways having support in high places comes in handy. “The City of London Corporation has its own surveyors/ planning department,” says MacDonald. “So as a school when we are approaching our local planning authority, we have the resources and expertise of the Corporation behind us who know far more about surveying and planning than I do. That’s quite unique in a school because in most cases a school would have to go out and buy that in. We are an anomaly: in a sense we are a local authority school that is fee-paying.” CURRICULUM 2012 Since taking his post in 2007, MacDonald has made a lot of changes to the curriculum, including doing away with Key Stage 2 tests, which the pupils always excelled at anyway, thus allowing them to focus on other things, like learning other languages. The school has big plans to change the school day in September under a new school-wide initiative called ‘Curriculum 2012’. The idea is to give each year group a dedicated afternoon for ‘enrichment’, for the development of skill sets that aren’t necessarily covered by the curriculum. This includes things like volunteering in the community, cookery, golf or even learning to be a DJ. “If someone is very much science and maths-[orientated], it kind of gives them something else to do that’s completely different,” says Holland. “The main strength is the inclusivity of it – the opportunities to try all these different things.” In order to accommodate the two hours per week to dedicate to enrichment, MacDonald and his team restructured the school day to fit a fortnightly timetable, “which will be interesting and take some 18 INDEPENDENT EXECUTIVE | JUL/AUG 2012

getting used to,” says the headmaster. Changes also included longer lessons in the senior school, which he believes will be more “meaningful”. He explains: “I happen to teach religious studies and in the year group that I teach I get one 35-minute lesson a week, and that’s all. Under the new arrangements, I would still get the equivalent amount but I would get an hour a fortnight, which means they still don’t get any more religious studies, but the time that I’ve got is more meaningful; you can have a proper debate. Whereas with 35 minutes, by the time you’ve got going, it’s time for the next lesson.” Having the best resources to support this curriculum is paramount to the school. “We always try to have the most up-to-date [ICT] equipment because that’s what children are used to now,” explains Holland. “A key point of the school is to make sure that children have all the practical skills when they leave and it’s not just thrown at them at GCSE or A-Level, they’ll be building it up all the way from Year 3.” As expansion continues, the school is not looking to boost pupil numbers too much, since one of its unique selling points is small class sizes. “We’re pretty much at capacity,” says MacDonald. With all the promising plans for its future, it’s more than likely it will stay that way. 

We are an anomaly: we are a local authority school that is feepaying

SCHOOL THE CITY OF LONDON FREEMAN’S SCHOOL TYPE INDEPENDENT 7-18 BOARDING AND DAY CO-ED SCHOOL Headmaster Philip MacDonald and marketing manager Michael Holland



Subscribe now and receive a free subscription* hr and legal > Charitable status

under the 2006 Charities act, independent schools are required to demonstrate that they offer benefits to a public beyond their own fee-paying pupils. the independent schools Council says the requirements to show how schools offer ‘public benefit’ are unfair, others say they don’t do enough. Julia dennison looks at the issue and its impact on schools

hr and legal > Charitable status


ccording to government statistics, just over half of the UK’s independent schools have charitable status. The benefit of a school becoming a charity is predominantly monetary. Evidence from HM Revenue & Customs back in 2009 indicated that tax breaks received by independent schools registered as charities is worth approximately £100m a year. This money, in most cases, is put back into the school to be put towards often much-needed improvements, whether it be upgrading the ICT facilities or hiring a new teacher. There are other benefits to charity status, according to Emma Ladd, an associate solicitor at Stevendrake Solicitors in Crawley. “People see you as less of a moneymaking exercise [if you’re a charity],” she says. “With most independent schools you’re talking about a fairly substantial outlay for most parents and a lot of them want to have that reassurance that this money isn’t just going into anybody’s pocket, but being used for the benefit of the school generally and the charitable status helps to give them that reassurance.” (See box out for a full list of benefits.) application process While the process of applying for charitable status itself is not overly arduous, actually getting it can be more of a challenge. Ever since the passage of the Charities Act 2006, schools have to prove they are of sufficient public benefit to achieve the status (previously being a provider of education was enough). This is where a recent legal case has come in between the Independent Schools Council (ISC) and the Charity Commission to determine just what criteria schools have to meet to prove they help the wider community. Ever since 2006, offering a good amount of bursaries has, for the most part, been sufficient, but the Charity Commission has challenged this, saying schools should play more of a leading role in the local community – whether through leasing out their facilities for reduced rates, for example, or forming links with nearby state schools, like underachieving academies, perhaps. Five ISC schools underwent ‘public benefit assessments’ by the Charity Commission between 2008 and 2009, with two of them requiring reassessment in 2010. While all five were ultimately given clean bills of health by the commission, the ISC has long expressed concerns that the commission’s actions were both based on an incorrect understanding of the law and were doing little to clarify just what charitable schools have to do to meet the commission’s public benefit test. So the ISC sought a judicial review in hopes of achieving a definitive legal ruling on the subject. The judicial review was

heard in May of this year, together with a related application made by the Attorney General – which shows the ISC’s request is being taken seriously. “Whatever the result, the fact the Attorney General felt the need to refer similar questions to the courts vindicates what we have been saying all along: that there are serious misgivings about the commission’s approach and a desperate need for legal clarity,” comments Matthew Burgess, deputy chief executive of the ISC. “Our claim is not special pleading by a privileged interest group trying to cling on to tax privileges; rather, it is a challenge to a regulator rewriting the law to suit its ideologies.” defining ‘public benefit’ This amorphous definition of ‘public benefit’ has left many private schools scratching their head about just what it is they have to do to meet charitable requirements. Some schools have even opted for non-profit status instead. Inter High Education is one. It runs two virtual schools on the internet – Inter High School, a private secondary school, and Academy21, a state school designed as an online resource for existing schools that need to educate their children off-site. Inter High contemplated charitable status, but decided to settle on being a non-profitmaking company instead, to avoid setting up a board of trustees who might not all agree with their unique vision. “This means we’re VAT exempt and all the usual things that charities enjoy, but it means that we can maintain the direction we think it should head,” remembers school development officer Jacqueline Daniell. Meanwhile, critics, such as Fiona Millar at the Local Schools Network, are adamant independent schools should be asked to do more than just supply funding for poorer pupils. “Bursaries, as they are currently constructed, should not justify charitable status,” she says. “Many do not cover the full fees and most are linked to academically selective tests more likely to favour the impoverished middle classes than the socially excluded poor.” Millar says offering smart but poor pupils bursaries may also deprive state schools of the academic mix they need to thrive. “We should go much further and require more exacting eligibility criteria for bursaries, with no academic selection and a focus on the pupils in state schools most at risk of exclusion who might benefit from the smaller class sizes and extra resourcing that private schools can offer,” she suggests. “State private partnerships should make a quantifiable impact on the performance of local state schools and on their most needy, rather than most able, pupils and there should be more rigorous methods of measuring that impact.”

There are serious misgivings about the commission’s approach and a desperate need for legal clarity 28 independent exeCutive | aug/sept 2011

When the ISC responded to the Charity Commission’s consultations on its draft guidance two years ago, it prefaced its response by placing on record its concerns that ‘the current direction of travel of the Charity Commission inevitably places it on a collision course, not just with eminent charity lawyers but, more importantly, with thousands of charities that have no option but to recover the costs of the services they provide through levying fees … when so many charities are affected by legal uncertainty, it is incumbent on the Charity Commission as their regulator to pause and give proper consideration to final guidance, with a view to bridging differences of opinion and reaching the broadest possible consensus on what “public benefit” really means.’ The Charity Commission rejected the call at that point, hence the ISC’s move to a judicial review. plans put on hold As we go to press, the ISC and many independent schools await the final guidance regarding charitable status. A decision on the Attorney General’s reference has not yet been made by the Tax and Chancery Chamber of the Upper Tribunal, however even without that reference, the Charity Commission plans to review its guidance because of the potential effect it could have on more than just independent school charities. The Charity Commission told the Upper Tribunal in May that trustees of fee-charging private schools are “not expected to do the impossible” and would have their individual circumstances taken into account when their public benefit is assessed. “From a lawyer’s point of view, this is too nebulous to be of any help,” comments Ladd. “Hopefully the guidance will reflect that other forms of benefit can be given without necessarily being in the form of bursaries – and you don’t have to give up, say, 20% of your income to maintain charitable status.” If nothing else, the ISC is confident that this time it will be taken seriously. “We can now be certain that the next stage in the saga will deliver definitive and accurate guidance to an area currently bereft,” comments Burgess. For the schools wishing to apply for charitable status as we write, the general advice is wait for the feedback and in the meantime, keep a record of all activities that could be construed as public benefit – you never know what will come in handy. 


Staying ahead of the competition In an era of state-run independents, can private schools still compete?

benefits of becoming a charity • • • • • •

exemption from the payment of income and corporation tax eligibility to receive charitable donations parents, supporters and companies eligibility to apply to grant-making charitable trusts ability to apply for gift aid promotes the message that your organisation is working for the benefit of others establishes a clear set of rules by which your organisation must work.

A guide to fundraising

Quick tips on how to boost your school’s cash flow

Feeling charitable

What does it take to be a charity these days?

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independent exeCutive | aug/sept 2011 29

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UNIFORM THINKING A school uniform can make or break the look and feel of your school. Carrie Service talks us through what uniforms and their peripherals do for your branding




hat we wear can have a huge bearing on how we behave and feel and has the ability to empower or alienate a person. We know this because of the choices we make when selecting clothes for ourselves every day – a suit for work, jeans for the evening, a new dress for a party. So why does it feel as though school uniforms don’t get as much thought, and what can schools do to improve this? A SENSE OF IDENTITY Ask any child what they don’t like about their school uniform and they will more than likely give you the very same answer a parent or teacher would give if you were to ask what they do like about it – they make every child look the same. This of course has many benefits and is the main purpose of having a uniform in the first place. It creates a sense of equality, discipline and unity between pupils. But although there are many things to be gained from having a uniform, there is no denying that the pupils are unlikely to acknowledge these. What many children dislike about school uniforms (particularly the older years) is the lack of individuality it creates, and if pupils dislike a uniform, they are unlikely to wear it in the way you intended. Adapting uniforms to create a more modern silhouette is one way of reaching a compromise, says Clare Whiteford, marketing manager at School Blazer: “Our experience is that giving girls a more feminine silhouette reduces the need for girls to show their femininity to the world by shortening their skirts – although the total solution to that problem continues to elude us,” she says wryly. She believes that allowing older girls to wear a more fitted style of blouse and blazer jacket encourages pupils to enjoy wearing their uniform rather than seeing it as a chore. This trend for a more contemporary look is growing one, says Tim Hallas, commercial director of the John Cheatle Group of uniform suppliers: “Whilst many parents want ‘the straw boater’ and attach a value to this type of independent school uniform, they have at the same time become more relaxed about other items of uniform, such as socks with specific school trims.” There is also a conscious effort to listen to the needs of the parents more these days: “Schools’ decisions on uniforms have become quite focused, and geared towards what parents now want, satisfying the parents’ needs and

It is after all a walking representation of the school and can be a great marketing tool


balancing these with the desire of the school to maintain a traditional look and appropriate image. Independent schools want the correct ‘look’ but they also have to balance this with practicality and cost for parents. Affordability has become a key issue.” CULTIVATE SOME TEAM SPIRIT Another integral piece of school clothing is the sports and PE kit. This has the potential to really encourage children to get more involved in sport, says Whiteford: “We have seen more and more schools creating their own high performance sportswear, incorporating the school colours, and extending this to all pupils, not just teams.” Allowing all pupils to wear a kit in team colours will give everyone a sense of team spirit and will help encourage those who are less interested in sport to get more involved. This could be extended by giving generic PE kits more of a ‘team’ feel by including crests and personalised shirts with names printed on the back. Another emerging trend is the multi-sport kit, which can be used for a variety of activities and team sports and proves to be both cost effective and less hassle – no more searching through laundry trying to find the right shirt or socks for hockey/football/lacrosse. A CHANGE COULD DO YOU GOOD If you are thinking about having a brand overhaul, updating your uniform is a good place to start. It is, after all, a walking representation of the school and can be a great marketing tool. But don’t be afraid to make a real change, it could do the world of good and could be what makes you stand out from competitors, says Hallas: “Recent developments in the state sector have increased the need for independent schools to continue to differentiate themselves and present the ‘right’ image through the distinctiveness of their uniforms.” Whiteford has noticed that many schools are keen to create a sense of consistency between the school’s branding colours and the uniform, prompting them to choose a more contemporary palette: “Whilst navy still dominates, we have seen an increasing desire to develop new colours,” says Whiteford. “The obvious way to do this is via the boys tie and an exclusive skirt check or tartan, incorporating the specific colour palette. However there are other ways; we have produced a beautiful pink-lined suit for one large school wanting to step away from this well-trodden path.” Finally, if you really want to know how you could improve your uniform, do your research – asking pupils and parents what they want from a uniform (within reason) will give you a better insight into their needs. 


Go learn outside!

Outdoor learning evangelists from all over the world have come together to form the International School Grounds Alliance. Julia Dennison speaks to co-founder Mary Jackson, of Learning through Landscapes, to find out why she fights for children’s right to a bit of fresh air


he benefit of the natural environment on people’s health is well-proven. Apart from giving you a good dose of vitamin D, a stroll in the sunshine can make you happier, healthier, and, it seems, wiser. Bringing school lessons outside helps hone skills-focused learning, problemsolving, team-building and self-reliance, to name a few advantages, plus, it’s more fun: who doesn’t remember that thrill experienced as a child when, on a particularly sunny day, the teacher takes the class outside? A group of educationalists decided to hone this and encourage schools to accommodate more lessons outside. Leaders in the school ground movement from all over the world – from Australia to Germany; the UK to the US – came together over the last year to form the non-profit International School Grounds Alliance. The ISGA brings together a wealth of experience in the fields of school ground use, design, education, and management around the globe and it invites like-minded organisations and professionals to become members and collaborate to grow the movement. Co-founder and representative of the ISGA in the UK, Mary Jackson has been a champion for school grounds for some time now, working for Learning through Landscapes since 1996 to help schools looking to develop their outdoor spaces. IMPROVING LANDSCAPES Jackson trained as a teacher, and then became a landscape architect before she moved to Learning through

Ten minutes outside, collect information and bring it back. It’s about integrating and extending what you’re doing inside outside 24 INDEPENDENT EXECUTIVE | JUL/AUG 2012

Landscapes, so has seen many school grounds in her time. She believes schools’ outside spaces are definitely improving – especially at the younger age. “Most primary schools these days have done something in their grounds,” she says, adding that it’s rare for a primary school not to be growing some kind of food. However for a lot of schools, especially senior schools, it’s still not seen as a priority, which doesn’t sit well with Jackson. “The schools that do go and use the grounds really see the benefit,” she says. For example, she is working on one project that is introducing traditional orchards into secondary schools, which also feed onto nearby primary schools. “They’re using it in different ways,” she explains. “There can be the maths in there for measuring out the orchard work – how much it’s going cost; how much will be grown each year – and then there’s also things like learning about local culture, traditions and varieties, and skills of grafting trees and finding out about how the genetic composition of apples work.” Jackson also feels that some senior schools don’t see going outside as “proper learning”. She is, of course, very quick to refute this train of thought: “The reality is, if you talk to the pupils who have been out they say: ‘It’s hands-on; we’ve got to do it; we understand now because we did it ourselves and that’s what made the difference.’ So they retain that learning and they’re excited about it and they retain the information.” There are even lessons where being outside could even be seen as necessary, such as geography for data collection, or PE. Furthermore, with mobile technology like tablets, it’s easier than ever for schools to think outside the classroom. “We always say that it doesn’t need to be the whole lesson outside,” she adds. “It could just as easily be ten minutes outside, collect the information, and bring it back into the classroom. It’s about integrating and extending what you’re doing inside outside.” BRINGING LESSONS OUTSIDE Despite the UK’s changeable weather, there are “schools that spend as much time outside as inside,” says Jackson.


“Then there are other schools [for which] it will be [a] one-off and maybe in the summer term when there’s that nice sunny day.” When it comes to the school’s architecture, again, Jackson finds primary schools better than secondaries when it comes to incorporating the outside. “Nearly every new primary, classroom and special schools will have direct access to the outdoors,” she says, encouragingly. “With secondary schools it’s harder – especially since they tend to be on more than one level – and some schools are doing it better than others.” A GLOBAL AGENDA Jackson got involved in forming the ISGA as far back as nine years ago when she ventured forth on a Churchill Scholarship, which (lucky for her) allowed her to travel the world looking at school grounds. She found that in Europe – Germany and Scandinavia particularly – the focus tends to be on natural play experiences – boulders, things to jump off, and loose parts like stones, sticks and branches. In the USA, particularly sunny California, it’s all about food growing. In Australia it’s about sun safety and sustainability. On home ground, it tends to be a bit of a smorgasbord. “What the UK is best at is integrating everything together,” says Jackson. As part of her travels, she met up with a Sharon Danks in San Francisco, who would eventually form the ISGA with her. “We started to think we ought to try and do something a bit more international and we tried setting up internet networking, but people weren’t used to using them,” she remembers. “Then, a couple of years ago, I thought: ‘This is ridiculous; I know all these people around the world doing fantastic things, let’s get a conference going.” Out of this, the first international school grounds conference took place in 2010. After the second conference last year, funding was sourced to get the ISGA going and they are now in the process of planning their next conference in autumn of 2013 in Toronto. From here, they hope to continue spreading the word and getting more young people into the great outdoors. 

JOIN THE ISGA Visit for more information on joining the ISGA. Take part in the discussion on LinkedIn by searching the “International School Grounds Alliance – Public Forum”.



Land on your feet With the news that four out of five public schools are planning to step up their investments in property, lawyers Nick Burrows, Katja Wigham, and Emma Butcher offer their advice to independent schools


t has been reported that independent schools, in attempting to maximise returns on their investments, are looking at investing further in land and property. Given the stagnant returns yielded by other forms of investment, property is seen as a way to increase income, as well as potentially providing opportunities for the future and, in some cases, serving operational needs of the schools. Whether a school is purchasing land for non-operational purposes or adding to its portfolio of properties to improve facilities, governors need to ensure that adequate precautions are taken in relation to the purchase. 26 INDEPENDENT EXECUTIVE | JUL/AUG 2012

The first step is for schools to check the terms of their charitable constitution. It is likely that this will have clauses allowing the governors to invest in property, but there may be restrictions on the use to which the property can be put. If the property is to be treated as an investment, then the governors will need to have regard to the school’s investment policy. So far as the process itself is concerned, acquisition by a school is much the same as for any other purchaser. Generally, there will be a contract exchanged, after which the transaction becomes binding, and that will be followed by a transfer. Although the transaction will require notification to HM Revenue and Customs, there will be relief from Stamp Duty Land Tax available if the school is

a charity. The transfer of the property will then need to be registered at the Land Registry. It is important that governors ensure that they approach such transactions carefully to fulfil their duties as charity trustees, and to protect the school. In particular Governors should take professional advice early. It is always advisable to obtain a surveyor’s report. That will establish whether there are any problems with the property which could lessen the value of the investment. For instance the presence of asbestos could signify costly problems and potential liabilities. In addition, advice on the future value of the property, the ease with which it could be sold, and future possible rental values is essential.




It is also sensible to take legal advice on the property as early as possible. There may be restrictions on the title to the property preventing a school’s proposed use either now or in the future. If there is a requirement for a change of use (possibly for redevelopment purposes), any covenant preventing this could be costly in terms either of preventing the use completely or the amount required to obtain the release of it. If the property is subject to a lease then the terms of the lease need to be checked carefully since the governors will be taking on obligations as landlord and need to be confident that the lease is commercially acceptable. If the school intends to develop the property in some way or change its use, then governors should take early advice on the planning status of the property. In some circumstances it may be appropriate to consider making the contract for the purchase conditional on obtaining the required planning permission. If the trustees are raising finance, then a report under the Charities Act 2011 will be required confirming that the loan is in the best interests of the charity and it has the means to repay it. If the school is buying land with the intention of receiving rental income, then it is advisable to buy a property that is already let. Speculative investment may mean having a property empty for some considerable time before the school receives any income. However, schools should beware of the potential dangers of possible security of tenure and the potential rights of tenants to enfranchise their lease. All of those could adversely affect the investment and there is little point in buying a property which the school could be forced to sell. If the property is let, governors should carry out due diligence on the current tenants. If schools are purchasing property that they are expecting to let out, even if only on a short-term assured shorthold tenancy, then that will constitute a disposal for the purposes of the Charities Act 2011, and the school must ensure that it complies with part 7 of that act. 28 INDEPENDENT EXECUTIVE | JUL/AUG 2012

While investment in real property can provide better returns for schools than other investments, it is important the acquisition, letting or disposal of property, are addressed in a careful manner

In certain circumstances an order of the Charity Commission will be required before the property can be let. In particular, that will apply if the property is to be let to a ‘connected person’ (which includes an employee of the school), or if the property is to be let at a reduced rent. Where the lease is for more than seven years, no order is required, provided that the requirements of s119 of the act are complied with (and as long as the lease isn’t being granted to a connected person). If the lease is for less than seven years on similar terms, no order is required but the school must comply with the (slightly less stringent) requirements of s120 of the act which provides that the school must: • obtain and consider the advice of a competent person (usually a surveyor) on the proposed letting • and consider that advice and satisfy itself that the terms of the letting are the best that can reasonably be obtained. Whether or not an order is required, the letting of the property must be in the best interests of the school. The school will also need to comply with all the other legislation which applies to lettings. These include the need to protect any deposit taken in one of the government approved tenancy deposit schemes, and the need to obtain energy performance and gas safety certificates for the property. In conclusion, while investment in real property can provide better returns for schools than other classes of investment, it is important that the acquisition, letting or subsequent disposal of property, are addressed in a careful and comprehensive manner to limit any potential disadvantages to the school, and to ensure that the governors have fulfilled their obligations as charity trustees. 

Nick Burrows, is a partner in the charities team; Katja Wigham, a partner in the property team and Emma Butcher, a solicitor in the dispute resolution team at Blandy & Blandy LLP




There are huge savings that can be achieved through group purchasing and yet it’s not something that has been widely adopted by independent schools. George Carey investigates the reasons for this hesitance and demonstrates the benefits on offer




nfortunately the phrase ‘double dip’ no longer applies purely to nachos: as government figures recently revealed, we are back in recession. Just like any other business, it’s time for schools to look at their finances and see if further savings can be made. Buying groups are nothing new and their price benefits are obvious, so why don’t more schools take the plunge? BARRIERS Like so much in life, it appears that agreeing with group purchasing and implementing it are two very different things. This has certainly been the experience of Derek Fargher, financial controller of Bradfield College: “I just seem to be struggling to get people to work with it. It’s a conversation I’ve had with some of my peers and they haven’t said no, but they haven’t said yes, either.” He continues: “Nobody disagrees in principal, they just don’t seem to have the time. They have to get their head around it and decide if it’s something they want to do.” Someone else who preaches the gospel of group purchasing is Ian Humble, director of Athis, a consultancy set up to help schools maximise their earning potential. He recalls: “It’s something that I often recommend, but not many of those that I have advised have actually done it.” Humble also feels that the way schools plan their budgets could be a problem, meaning that signing up for two or three-year group purchasing agreements may not fit into their priorities. “Schools generally operate with a traditional cost-lead budget and it is put into a time frame that’s too short.” Another theory is that it’s simply the age old enemy, time, that stops schools biting the bulk-bought bullet. Lorraine Ashover, director of Minerva Procurement Services, thinks that a fear of taking the lead on such a project could be the deciding factor: “The school business manager or bursar doesn’t want to be the person to stick their head above the parapet and take responsibility for it. If they want to collaborate together, then someone will have to coordinate the whole thing.” While this project management role is one that can be taken on by a consultancy, Ashover feels that some may see using such a service as a dereliction of duty. “People tend to be reticent to accept outside support; there’s a feeling that they should be doing it themselves. It can be

seen as a shortcoming from their perspective if they have to get someone in to help them with it.” THE GRASS IS GREENER For those willing to take the plunge, there are many benefits available and sometimes greater savings than you may have thought. Fargher recounts a purchasing group he was part of in his last job: “It’s something I did in the past when I worked in the university sector. We bought insurance in a group of 20 universities and saved an absolute fortune. We did some e-tendering as well for things such as telecoms, photocopiers and stationery, all of which made savings.” The spending power of 20 universities may seem unattainable to a small independent school, but significant savings are not just the niche of buying behemoths. Keith Allmark, estates manager at Lord Wandsworth College, decided the school was paying too much for its heating oil and sought a solution. The college joined four other schools to form a buying group. “We looked into a number of ways of trying to reduce that cost,” he says. “We were paying a spot price and when we shopped around, the price varied from day to day. One of the advantages we gained when we grouped together with the other schools to buy our gas, was a bit more certainty in terms of price.” The five schools opted to use a consultancy to broker the on-going deal, which Allmark feels has been worth the investment: “Because we have a third party who oversees things, we know that if there is an issue with a supplier, it will be sorted out on a central basis. I’m free to concentrate on other things, rather than worrying what the price of oil will be next week, and if we’ll still have a supply.” The fluctuating prices of produce, means that some schools turn to catering services and the purchasing power they can offer for added security. Olayinka Ewuola, director of Eagle Solutions Services, said: “The school doesn’t have to keep an eye on the pricing because that’s our job. We take care of the negotiations. One of our grocers has 17,000 products available, which obviously a school hasn’t got time to go through, so we make sure that we track the prices.” There is no limit to the range of products and services that schools can help each other to purchase, as Ashover points out: “One that people often overlook is coach travel. If you’ve got school runs or regular trips being made in one area, it’s worth considering bulking up on that. You’ll find that although a route may not be cost effective to run with one school, if you’ve got two or three schools in the area, it could become financially viable.” From the testimony of those with experience, it seems logical that more academies and independent schools will follow this model in the future, although it remains to be seen. Despite the lack of concrete interest from those he’s approached to date, Fargher is determined to keep pushing the group agenda: “We all buy the same thing, so I can’t see why it wouldn’t benefit everybody, if we can just find the time to sit around the table and do it. It can be time consuming, but if you do it properly, the benefits more than outweigh the pitfalls.”  INDEPENDENT EXECUTIVE | JUL/AUG 2012 31


Incentivising education A happy, productive school can only be achieved with highly motivated teachers. George Carey looks at the best ways to boost morale and encourage great results




n May of this year the former head of school inspections, Christine Gilbert, referred to morale among state school teachers as “rock bottom”. Her comment came in response to a survey published by the UK’s biggest teaching union, National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT), which revealed that nearly half of its 230,000 members had considered resigning in the past year. While the situation may not seem as drastic in independent schools and academies, the survey’s findings are indicative of a perceived dip in morale among teachers generally. So what can be done improve the situation? In the same month, the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) restated its support to link teachers’ progression to performance, rather than adhering to a strict structure based on time spent in the job. They were, however, quick to point out that performance-related progression should be seen as a way of raising the status of teachers and boosting teaching standards, rather than providing a blunt instrument to punish and penalise staff who choose to work with more challenging pupils. Russell Hobby, general secretary of the NAHT, said: “We believe that progression through grades should be more strongly connected to performance - although not to crude data outcomes. Good teachers ought to be able to progress more quickly on the basis of a rounded and objective judgement of their performance.” He elaborated, stating that length of service alone, should not determine pay, as it is clearly not the only thing that determines a teacher’s performance, concluding: “While experience is valuable, of course, teachers do not become outstanding only at the end of their career.” While career progression is vitally important in any line of work and essential for schools looking to hold on to their best and most ambitious teachers, it’s impor-

tant to keep morale high on a day-to-day basis. There are many options available to enterprising bursars and school business managers to improve their teachers’ working environment and incentives to achieve great results. The difficulty lies in making these incentives cost-effective and working out a fair and accurate way of measuring staff members’ entitlement. One option, which is widely viewed with

Research published in May, by OECD, found ‘no relationship’ between pupils’ test results and the use of performance pay skepticism by many in education, is financial incentives for teachers. It tends to polarize opinion, because many feel that it will only amplify the effect of target driven teaching, which they opine may encourage teachers to cut corners or avoid working with problem pupils to reach those targets. Research published in May, by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), found “no relationship” between pupils’ test results and the use of performance pay. The study used data from the organisation’s Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) tests. The OECD’s membership includes more than 30 of the world’s industrialised countries – and about half

of these already use some kind of extra pay incentives for specific teachers. Despite the lack of a correlation between performancerelated pay and better results, it’s unsurprising that a previous OECD report advised that raising achievement in schools depended on attracting the best students into teaching with “status, pay and professional autonomy”. The relationship between pleasant surroundings and a productive work force are well established and simple tweaks to classrooms and more specifically staff rooms have a significant effect on teachers’ moods and therefore their performance. Measures which may seem obvious, such as segregating areas in staff rooms into those used for meetings and those used for relaxing can ensure a well-adjusted and more relaxing atmosphere for those seeking some much-needed downtime between lessons. As well as the improvement to aesthetics and comfort that small changes can create, the knowledge that the school (their employer) is making an effort to improve their working environment, can be very gratifying for teachers, who may sometimes feel over-worked and under-paid. Leisure trips and gifts are another option to offer teachers, which can serve to reinforce their position and feeling of professional achievement, without having the perceived mercenary effect that cash incentives might. A system of attainment will have to be put in place that reflects the provision of a well-rounded education and does not simply focus on exam results. While it may be tough to achieve the right balance between incentivising teachers’ performance and prioritising a general focus on quality education, rather than simply results, it is obviously important to raise morale in a profession that can often feel under-valued. Teachers are no different to anyone else, and need to feel that their work is appreciated and will be adequately rewarded.  INDEPENDENT EXECUTIVE | JUL/AUG 2012 33


TEN HABITS OF A BAD MANAGER In a bid to help schools become what he calls ‘highperformance organisations’, André de Waal, a professor in strategic management, reveals some of management’s worst practices that all school business managers should avoid


f you’re looking to run a ‘high-performance organisation’, or HPO, it’s imperative to be able to recognise the signs of bad management. If non-HPO managers are not checked and dealt with, an organisation will never be able to become excellent. Here are 10 habits that HPO managers would never put up with.


BAD MANAGERS CLEAN UP THE MESS OF THEIR PREDECESSORS – EVEN WHEN THERE IS NO MESS When appointed in a new position, the bad manager claims that the predecessor has made such a big mess of the department that it will take at least one year, if not more, to get everything in order, and of course the bad manager cannot possibly work yet on achieving the departmental targets this year… maybe next year too.



They are involved in many, many projects; in fact, they’re so busy that there isn’t enough time to work on regular tasks. And because these projects are vital for the success of the organisation (or so they say), bad managers cannot possibly be expected to work on their departmental targets. They will get to that when their other projects are finished… which they never are.




They know that departmental goals should be loose, with lots of slack, which means the targets will be very easy to achieve. Bad managers will never get optimal results from their departments; but that doesn’t matter to them, bad managers would rather have low performance than run the risk of punishment for falling short of targets.

BAD MANAGERS ONLY MANAGE FROM A DISTANCE Bad managers love to use performance indicators because they make it possible to practice hands-off management. This makes it easy for bad managers to avoid the day-to-day department activities altogether. And of course, if anything goes wrong, they can dodge accountability.




BAD MANAGERS ALWAYS BLAME SOMEBODY ELSE Bad managers have a host of excuses at their disposal when they don’t achieve departmental targets: the economy was going down, it has rained too much, it hasn’t rained enough, whatever — but that is the reason everything was going against the department and therefore it was just impossible to achieve the targets.



Bad managers know that expansive, wordy, and complex plans always impress top management because it gives the impression that they are on top of their game and have thought of everything. They also know that you can bury all kinds of assumptions and preconditions in these verbose plans, which function as safeguards when top management starts complaining that goals have not been achieved (“Well, you knew that could happen, we put it on page 237, section 3, line 5 …”). An additional advantage is that employees will not read nor understand these.

BAD MANAGERS ONLY COMMUNICATE IN ONE WAY Bad managers are all capable of holding an open forum for employees to voice concerns, questions, and suggestions. This sounds like the mark of a good manager, right? However, the bad manager only feigns interest in employee feedback, and won’t actually act on what he or she hears. Instead, bad managers stick to their own plans. If people complain, the bad manager will use open forums against the participants, claiming that any incompetency is the fault of everyone.

8 10



They have Machiavelli’s The Prince on their nightstand and turn to it often for advice on how to practice effective “divide and conquer” strategies in the organisation: manipulating colleagues, employees, and bosses. As a result, the targeted members in the organisation become preoccupied with guarding their backs instead of focusing on growing the department.

BAD MANAGERS ONLY HAVE EYES FOR SENIOR LEADERS Bad managers know who butters their bread: the head. Therefore, bad managers work diligently on satisfying them, even if this works to the detriment of the organisation’s long-term interests.

BAD MANAGERS HAVE AN EXIT STRATEGY EVERY THREE YEARS When the organisation is on the verge of holding a bad manager accountable for his or her (in) actions, the bad manager moves on to another organization.The bad manager had plotted his or her exit strategy for a long time, and always has a fall-back organisation to flee to.


It goes without saying that these 10 habits don’t exist in HPOs. But as most organisations are not HPO yet, it is good for you to be able to recognise the signs of bad management, this way you can deal with these ‘bad managers’ quickly…which is, after all, also a characteristic of an HPO manager.

André de Waal is associate professor of strategic management at the Maastricht School of Management and academic director of the HPO Center ( INDEPENDENT EXECUTIVE | JUL/AUG 2012 35




With children having access to the most up to date technology at home these days, schools need to pull out all the stops when it comes to ICT to keep children engaged. Carrie Service visits a small state primary school that is doing big things with technology to see if the independent sector can learn a thing or two




recent study by the British Educational Suppliers Association (BESA) revealed that although independent schools show more positivity than state schools about changes to government ICT policy, they aren’t making as much progress in terms of procurement of hardware and software. The survey of 148 ICT leaders of independent schools revealed that there is under-resourcing of certain technology in the independent sector, with a fifth of prep and two-thirds of senior schools without enough laptops and 15% of schools without enough software. It goes without saying that funding can be a sticking point when it comes to procuring ICT, especially in private education where resources depend on admissions and can vary year on year. So I went to visit a small state primary school that has really made the best of its resources to hear about its smart investments in ICT. BLOG SPOT Deputy headteacher Michelle Hill is in charge of ICT projects at Leamore Primary, a school of 200 pupils in Walsall in the West Midlands. She came to Leamore four years ago and has certainly left her mark in the time she has been here: her most recent achievement is a Naace ICT Impact Award, which the school received for its innovative use of blogging with early years children. The project came about initially as a way of streamlining the younger children’s work records, as early years teachers are required to gather evidence from each of their pupils, which was proving a little problematic: “Traditionally everybody scribbles everything on Post-it notes and you end up with these really unmanageable lever arch files,” Hill tells me. “So, we came up with the idea of giving out iPod touches to every staff member in the early years unit and we set up some WordPress blogs, so every child had their own individual blog.” She then made sure staff received training so that they knew how to take and upload photos and videos, write descriptions and add tags to the blogs. Hill wanted staff to be able to do this ‘on-the-go’, as they were going

about their normal routine: “It was live blogging,” she recalls. Hill shows me the video the school submitted to Naace when they were nominated for the award, which features clips from some of the video blogs. There are shots of children working on their art projects and taking part in activities with classmates. Parents can then log on and take a look at what their children have been up to at school – far more powerful than a written report or even a photograph. AN IPAD REVOLUTION The introduction of the iPad has had a huge impact on the way Leamore uses technology, and Hill was quick to get the school involved: “We were early adopters, so when they came out around two years ago we bought them straight away,” she explains. I asked why they weren’t tempted to wait a while before investing in technology that was relatively unknown and untested in schools, but Hill’s attitude seems to be to go with her instinct: “We could have waited and waited for the newer ones to come out but we were keen to find out what the problems with them would be, overcome them and just hit the floor running really.” Hill has started an iPad band in Year Five – yes, that’s right, an iPad band – and when I meet with her they are due to have their very first concert that same week. “I say this sort of tongue-in-cheek, but we’re hoping they’re going to go on tour. We’re hoping that they’ll be that good that local schools will invite us in to do concerts,” she says. The concert involves 120 children in total, with each child contributing something different to do with technology, and 30 children in the actual band. “It was quite mad to organise,” she laughs, “even the dance number has got technology thrown in, and the violin pieces as well.” WORKING MAGIC Hill always has her ear to ground, listening out for new innovations in ICT that she thinks the children might benefit from. Another iPad-based project she is working on at the moment is centred around digital art. She has managed to get a local children’s author and illustrator, Steve



Smallman, on board, who has been working with the children over the summer term to develop their iPad art skills. This all came about because Hill came across some “really cool” digital paint brushes during her research for new ideas. They work just like a real paint brush, so the children can create intricate paintings and artwork on the iPad: “We only found out about them two weeks ago so we’ve ordered them from America,” she says. They are hoping to exhibit the final artwork produced using the paintbrushes at the local library. But it doesn’t end there: “That’s when we’ll throw the magic at it,” she tells me mysteriously. Using a free app called Aurasma, visitors to the exhibition will be able to, as if by magic, watch a video showing how the artwork was produced. An iPad will be placed next to the display, and when someone lifts the iPad up to the exhibit and scans a piece of artwork, a video of the child creating it will appear inside the painting (when viewing it through the iPad). Hill has used the same software on a display of the reception class’s craftwork within the school, which she describes as “the Harry Potter wall” and it certainly does have an element of magic about it. BREAKING THE RULES Leamore is living proof of how up to date technology can really accelerate learning and help produce better exam results for pupils. Hill was so impressed by the speed at which Year Five were grasping ICT she decided to set them the challenge of passing GCSE, aged at just nine and ten years old. “They were a particularly good class, so we put eight of them, plus their parents and three members of staff on the GCSE,” she tells me. Everybody passed and nobody got below a grade C – one student even got an A*. “If we believe in something, we’ll go for it,” says Hill; and go for it they did. The school even had to become an examination centre because nobody wanted them to sit the exams at their school, and what’s more, the children passed the GCSE in just one year instead of two. LEFT TO YOUR OWN DEVICES Leamore’s ICT equipment includes 35 Macs, 42 iPads, an Xbox Kinect, a Playstation, three Wii consoles and ten iPods. So, how do they do it? Do they have additional funding or grants? “We are just really careful with our budget,” explains Hill. They began by investing in ten iPads and tested the devices out across all year groups to determine whether or not they were suitable before making a larger investment. “We don’t waste money on things that aren’t going to work, that aren’t going to make an impact,” says Hill. “We’re quite shrewd. Yes we have got these amazing things, but we don’t just buy anything


or everything, we only buy the things that we believe in.” No doubt reading this has got you thinking of ideas for your own school, but before you get carried away it’s important to remember that if you do decide to bring in mobile devices you will need to invest in the security software to back them up, says Robert Doswell, an

Yes we have got these amazing things, but we don’t just buy anything or everything, we only buy the things that we believe in expert in user management technology at Tools4ever: “It is imperative that administrators bear in mind the importance of implementing the identity management technology in order to monitor these devices and keep the school’s network secure.” This is especially true if you are encouraging children to bring in their own devices, which is a good way of testing different technologies out before committing to an investment. Implementing access management technology might seem like a big outlay for the school but it can have additional benefits, such as streamlining and automating processes that would normally be completed manually: “In the long run, the financial benefits from the time saved through automation and the vital role the added security plays in keeping schools up-tocode for data protection compliance outweighs the initial cost of the software,” adds Doswell. I think there is a lot that independent schools can learn from Hill’s projects at Leamore. She hasn’t had huge budgets to play with; she has simply made well thought-out investments in technology that she believes genuinely have an impact on engagement and learning. The success of Hill’s projects is down to looking at long term goals rather than investing in technology that will only hold the children’s attention until the next model is released. Have a little faith and don’t be afraid to invest in something different, but always think of the long term – if you think ahead 12 months down the line and see it gathering dust in a storage cupboard replaced by a newer model, don’t invest. 


Hampton School, an independent school for boys in Middlesex founded 450 years ago, is embracing the latest cloud client computing technology to give every pupil a virtual desktop and widen access to ICT in the classroom. Julia Dennison speaks to IT and network manager Ian Trevena about how it works


ith the news that independent schools are embracing September’s changes to the ICT curriculum at a faster rate than state schools, it has become clear the sector is winning the race to better technology in the classroom. Part of this is private schools’ ability to be flexible enough to embrace change at a rapid pace. One school that takes a particularly innovative approach to technology is the Hampton School. Although 450-years-old, the Middlesex school is still not one to rest on its laurels. In a bid to widen technology access in the classroom, IT and network manager Ian Trevena has taken the step to roll out the latest cloud client computing technology so every pupil has access to a virtual desktop. This came about when he realised that the upkeep on computers for Hampton’s 1,200 boys – all between the ages of 11 and 18 – was getting out of hand, and user experience was suffering as a result of downtime due to software updates and admin 40 INDEPENDENT EXECUTIVE | JUL/AUG 2012

time. In this day and age, constant computer access is a must, and installing virtual desktops is one way of coping with this. A PROBLEM WITH A SOLUTION The school had deployed PCs within a growing number of IT suites across its campus, which were being used by teachers for more and more lessons. However, the variable performance of the PCs was starting to affect lessons. Support and maintenance was also putting serious pressure on the school’s small IT team. “We were spending an awful lot of time with older hardware in the IT suites on general maintenance and basic problems were taking up way too much time for my technicians,” remembers Trevena. “When rolling out software, we were talking about imaging each of the machines rather than having any sort of central management.” In reviewing its desktop strategy, the school decided to take advantage of its investment in Citrix technology. Having virtualised its data centre, the next

logical step was to virtualise the desktop environment to provide every pupil with their own personal desktop that they could use anywhere on the school’s IT infrastructure. Zero client technology, supported by Wyse, was rolled out and with no operating system, device management was simplified. This enables the IT team to do all their support remotely. Furthermore, the new zero clients could support the full range of 150plus applications used by the students at all stages of their education, whether they are working with standard software applications or working with richer multimedia. Trevena finds this easier to manage than having nine different IT suites with different machines and all the problems that comes with it. “For simple things, like rolling out a piece of software, you used to have to wait until the half-term break, but now you can almost do it overnight,” he says. This is essential when a school like Hampton is rolling out up to 80 different software packages at any one time. “Plus we don’t


get through anywhere near as much hardware in the classrooms,” he adds. “Those terminals have been there for two years and we’ve only replaced one power supply, whereas previously we were probably getting through a couple of different PCs.” DEVICES YOU CAN RELY ON Reliability is also no longer an issue with the zero clients robust enough to cope with the boys’ heavy use. Furthermore, the inherent flexibility of the new virtual desktop infrastructure is enabling ICT to become a seamless part of teaching and learning. The wide availability of the more reliable zero clients means pupils can log into their personal virtual desktop on any free device during lessons and other times. With no limit to what can be accessed or worked with, applications that were only available in one room are now available on any zero client, enabling all kinds of lessons to be run in whatever IT suite available. Also, with no moving parts in the devices, there isn’t very much to break – which contributes to a longer life-span. “Before with hard drives, floppy drives and CD drives – all those bits and pieces tend to break with kids shoving things in when they shouldn’t,” adds Trevena.

A BETTER ENVIRONMENT The energy saving potential of replacing so many PCs with more energy efficient zero clients is an important part of Hampton being a carbon-neutral institution – it was one of the first schools in the UK to install solar panels and also has a wind turbine in its grounds. “The terminals use about nine watts each, which is substantially less than your average

A FUTURE IN THE CLOUD Since its initial roll-out in 2010, Hampton School has deployed over 150 zero client devices, with more planned in the coming year. The response from pupils and teachers is very positive. The thin clients are regularly used as part of lessons and accessed during lesson breaks. People find them faster, with an instant boot time compared to the more sluggish performance of the PCs. With the first phases of the PC replacement programme completed, the school is looking to extend the virtual desktop infrastructure. There are plans to convert the four remaining IT suites over to zero clients. But are there any downsides? Trevena says the initial up-front cost can be quite a lot, “but to be honest, once you get that out of the way, it scales quite well”. He adds: “We had a three or four year rotation on the ICT suites, but we don’t currently have any plans to replace the ICT suites now.” So does he recommend it to other schools? “I think it’s the way forward. Anything else just increases maintenance costs and technician time outside of the IT office and server room and I don’t think anybody can really afford the man-power on that anymore.” 

I think it’s the way forward. Anything else just increases maintenance costs and technician time outside of the IT office


PC,” says Trevena. “And you can certainly tell [the difference] in the rooms – they are a lot cooler and a lot less noisy, so there’s definitely energy savings to be had, not only from the machines themselves, but from trying to cool them as well.” Using zero clients is also contributing to a better physical environment. The lower power rating and heat output, compared to PCs, means classrooms are markedly cooler. And with no need for a fan, they are quieter too.



Having a game plan Keeping kids interested is nine-tenths of the battle when it comes to teaching. So what should schools be investing in to get children hooked on learning?

hen you hear the words ‘games console’ you might not immediately think of education. But more and more schools are bringing games or ‘gaming’ into the classroom and are using it as a way to accelerate learning. Games in general have been used for a long time in classrooms, but now many schools are utilising consoles that children use at home, such as the Wii or Playstation, in lessons. This ‘tricks’ children into learning by getting them to do something they would usually do as a treat or at weekends. Consoles that allow children to move around are particularly popular because they add an extra dimension to gaming. A child moving around, playing a dance game or tennis on the Wii, will burn far more calories and create much more interaction with other pupils than if they were sitting at a PC. New technology that doesn’t involve complicated buttons such as the Playstation Kinect, where no controller is used, are great for younger years children and there are loads of games


out there specifically designed for toddlers and primary age pupils. Michelle Hill, deputy head at Leamore Primary School in Walsall (see page 37) is a big fan of using gaming for learning. Maths and literacy are perhaps the most obvious areas you might expect to benefit from the use of games, but as Hill points out, the possibilities are endless: “For our nursery years we use a game on the Playstation called the iPet. They look after a monkey-like imaginary animal on a daily basis; they have to feed him every morning, change his clothes – it’s all about PSHE”. Hill has such faith in games based learning that there are only three topics out of 36 where Leamore does not use it. Hill’s top tip for implementing the idea in your school is: know your audience. Keeping up to date with new games and the pupils’ hobbies and interests is a good way of finding games that are relevant and capture the children’s attention: “We look out for things that are coming across the year,” Hill tells me, “for example we know Fifa is coming up so we’ve been putting together a unit of work based on the Fifa game for the Wii.” 

3D starter kit enhances educational experience Follow us @ i_exec for the latest news updates and insight into the issues that affect the role of the business manager.


The new 3D starter kit for schools includes NEC’s lightweight, re-chargeable 3D glasses plus market-leading 3D content and software in one handy kit to provide easy access for schools looking to introduce the 3D experience into the classroom. The 3D content contains seven interactive applications and numerous interactive 3D modules including the exploration of the human heart and of a plant cell. Eight 3D demo videos include illustrative examples covering subjects such

as geography, sciences and technology, as well as primary educational content for teaching spelling and mathematics.


A simple twist of fate 46 INDEPENDENT EXECUTIVE | JUL/AUG 2012


Knightsbridge School is a modern prep that despite being founded only six years ago, seems like it’s been around forever. Much of this is down to founder and head Magoo Giles. Julia Dennison speaks to the inspired leader about the school's start and progress, a project at Chelsea Flower Show and why he keeps it simple hether it is the name, location, or impressive building, the sixyear-old Knightsbridge School feels like it has been around for decades. In fact, the modern preparatory school was founded in September 2006, and from its location behind Harrods in SW1, offers a broad, balanced and challenging curriculum for boys and girls aged three to 13. When I visit in May, the place is abuzz, quite literally, with excitement surrounding the pupils’ entry in the nearby Chelsea Flower Show. For the first time, a school has entered a garden, and the flowers and decorations that line the entrance hall of Knightsbridge School is evidence of just how proud they are of their efforts. As I wait to speak to the head, a screen in the reception plays a clip of the Queen nodding approvingly while doing her rounds at the show, as one Knightsbridge pupil curtsies and gives her a posy. Magoo Giles is clearly proud of the momentous occasion – but this head is no stranger to Her Majesty, having worked as her personal equerry for two years during his career in the army. He even has his bearskin hat in his office to prove it.


did many of the staff members on TUPE. “It was a really challenging first year,” he admits. “I brought in about 10 new staff, there were around 14 staff existing, and we had to link them together to find out what their strengths were – all with five weeks’ notice. If I had to do it again, I would [think] P, P, P, P and P – prior planning and preparation prevents poor performance.” He felt it was important to open a school with a community ethos. “Coming from a tough state school start in Dalry, Ayrshire, being the only English child in a Scottish school with a military background, and from another school as well, I’m very much driven by that aspect of it,” he says. “It’s not about the profit; it’s actually about quality not quantity.” When it came to establishing a brand for the school – Giles was determined to keep things simple, a philosophy that appealed to the military man in him. The name Knightsbridge School came about in part because of its simplicity, but also because it shared its initials with the ethos ‘keep it simple’. “Then, of course, KS also rolls with ‘keep studying, ‘keep smiling’, 'keep sporty' [and] ‘keep singing’,” he adds.

ORIGINS OF KS After his stint in the army, Giles moved into education, working his way up from assistant teacher to head of an all-boys school before deciding to start his own school. After having two children, he felt “it was the right time to have another ‘child’ – which was the school”. He saw the closing down of Hellenic College in Knightsbridge as his opportunity. “I heard the building was available and I rang a friend of mine who I used to be at school with, who is in finance, and I said: ‘I found the building, we needed to raise some money for it,” remembers Giles. From here, he and his colleagues put in a bid for it. “We were the only bidder that said we would look after anyone who wanted to stay of the 89 children and in a way, I think that was quite a good move.” Nine GCSE students came over, and so

ROOM FOR GROWTH KS is preparing for an intake of 50 more pupils in September, which will bring its numbers up to 380. Making room for these extra pupils has its challenges in an urban landscape, and to overcome these, Giles will reach out to the surrounding area. “We’ve




It’s not about the profit; it’s actually about quality not quantity

got a really good link with St Columba’s church across the road, so we’ve now got a classroom there,” he says. “I rent St Saviour’s church by Harrods – the legend Father Rob Gillian there runs an art church and they take a lot of offenders and re-educate them through drama, which is amazing.” The school holds all its sport at Burton’s Court at the Royal Hospital Chelsea, which is also a recipient of KS’s charity work. “That for me is very important as an ex-soldier,” he says. “We get pensioners visiting from there; we support them financially asking all parents to join as 'friends', and we have our remembrance service across the road.” The school choir also raises money for Help for Heroes at Christmas. This sense of duty leads on to what is known as the ‘KS code’, a simple set of rules of good conduct (see box out). Giles is very proud of it and has it printed on wallet-sized cards so it can sit in every child, staff member and parent’s pocket. “It absolutely delivers the messages of today inside school and out and what I think every grownup should be aspiring towards, in a very simple way," he says. "It’s my ten commandments without religion.” He thinks prep school is the perfect time to be setting these standards. “I was always told that up to eight, you don’t necessarily remember who told you, but you remember it; after eight, you remember who told you,” he says. “I think the early stuff is important because it does get you into the routine and it does give you the basics – or the foundation, which is why it’s called the foundation stage.” As a result of this encouragement, when the children arrive or depart KS, they greet the teachers and shake their hands. As part of this ethos of giving back, the school has launched its first bursary this year and will be offering two next year. They have also set up the Knightsbridge School Educational Foundation to support a number of projects and charitable organisations in Kensington and Chelsea. A BLOSSOMING FUTURE The opportunity to design a garden for the RHS Chelsea Flower Show in May came about when parents Roger Egerickx and Fiona Barnett, who are also garden designers, approached Giles. “There’s an educational area of the flower show,” he recounts, “but there were no schools exhibiting, so we thought, why don’t we do a garden?”


So Knightsbridge School’s Year 6 pupils got to work designing a garden, entitled ‘Planting the Idea’ under the show’s theme of 'Urban Greening'. The concept and ethos behind the school’s design was that even the most unpromising urban environment can be transformed with thought and application. Featuring graffitied walls, urban sculpture and an abandoned car, the pupils also took the initiative to integrate bee-friendly wild flowers to encourage a healthier eco-system. Looking to the future, Giles is always on the hunt for the next project and idea for expansion: “The key is to keep growing and getting better,” he says, and he is determined to do so under his four favourite philosophies: duty, respect, trust and responsibility. Knightsbridge School has had a good start in life and is likely to continue to blossom under the dedicated vision of Magoo Giles. 

THE KS CODE • I will remember how lucky I am and do my best at everything • I will try to do something creative everyday • I will remember to walk fast and not to run • I will try not to let others feel lonely • I will say nothing that will be hurtful to others • I will treat others as I would like to be treated • If I have any worries I will talk to an adult I trust • I will respect others and their possessions • I will remember that giving and sharing are the best feelings in the world • I will strive for a healthy body and healthy mind • I will remember to recycle, reduce and reuse • I will try to always be fair and honest and to seek to forgive.


THE SOCIAL NETWORK John Crofts, head of Glebe House School, speaks about his experience setting up GlebeCom, a safer social networking site for his pupils


t’s funny how several things can hit you in a short space that seem to have a link: 09.00 “Who uses Facebook?” was my opening question as I addressed the school in a PHSE session on internet safety last September. I guess I knew that, despite the supposed age restriction of 13, a number of my year sevens and eights would be habitual users, but I was surprised by how young it went and astonished by the fact that everyone seemed to know Harry’s login and password details. 11.00 For the first time I’ve just had to speak to two pupils about putting silly messages on emails to one another. 14.30 School marketing meeting: ‘item five: the new website’. “This time let’s get the parent log in right.” “Ah,” said the chairman, “let me put you in touch with Stuart.” Two weeks later I met with Stuart Whaley from a social networking firm, accompanied by a former Glebe parent. We agreed that clearly social networking is here to stay and equally clearly there are dangers of misuse of such networks. There is therefore a great need to allow children to benefit from social networks, but to do it safely. Hence GlebeCom was born. At Glebe House School we are piloting a new web based approach to parent, pupil and teacher communications. We have launched our very own social network – private, safe and secure. The new online product to the educational market combines all the communication tools a school needs in one package. No longer are different products required for the school to communicate with parents, or for teachers to teach remotely and children to learn in the digital world of today. A


central hub allows all constituencies in the school to talk to one another directly, safely and securely. New groups can be set up easily for teams, parents’ groups, trips and even governors, either open to all users or private areas to debate and collaborate. Users can post events so it really becomes a one-stopshop for everything school related. Most powerfully, the platform offers a discrete social network that allows young children to use all the functionality associated with the large social networks, but in a safe and secure environment. This enables my pupils, the oldest of whom only hit 13 in their final year, to gain their first experience of social media, safely whilst learning how to use them in a meaningful way, as well as staying in touch with their school friends. It allows my colleagues to post useful articles, information and ensure no one fails to know what homework has been set. Parents can easily see what is going on and organise their lives more easily with up to date information, which is private to them. The many functions are entirely controlled by the school and can be used to integrate home and school in new and exciting ways. The bursar is also excited by the possibilities of generating revenue through discreet advertising and the operation of a second–hand market for goods. We are still in the early stages and, like any new venture it is having its teething problems, but that is why we are piloting it and I am genuinely excited by the possibilities that GlebeCom has opened up to us.  Independent Executive is always keen for school success stories. If you’ve got a story to tell, get in touch on


The bursar is also excited by the possibilities of generating revenue through discreet advertising and the operation of a second– hand market for goods

Independent Executive July 2012  

Independent Executive