New ISA chair offers optimistic message to members

The new academic year saw Phil Soutar begin his year-long stewardship of the ‘unique’ Independent Schools Association

The new chair of the Independent Schools Association (ISA), Phil Soutar, has revealed that taking up his new role earlier this month brought him “great pleasure and pride”.

The head of London’s Rosemead prep school, Soutar has been part of the ISA’s executive council for the last 12 years, most recently as national chair of the membership committee.

Before arriving at Rosemead five years ago, Soutar served an 11-year headship St Wystan’s prep school in Derby, which in turn followed a seven-and-a-half year spell as deputy head of Ackworth Junior School in Pontefract.

“Headship is said to be one of the loneliest jobs in a school, but with membership of ISA that cannot be said to be the case,” he said in a message to fellow members, as he began his new role.

“Whether it be picking up the phone for some support with a thorny issue from a colleague that you met once at a training course, or chewing the fat with a group of like-minded individuals over a drink at conference, that fellowship is always there for you.”

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ISA membership had, he added, bequeathed him some lifelong friendships.

“What sets us apart from other membership associations is the pure breadth and diversity of our members and the schools in which they lead. Our fellowship includes heads from prep schools, senior schools and through schools, nursery schools and sixth form colleges, schools of religious character and schools that cater for children with a variety of special needs.”

Almost 600 schools claim membership of the ISA.

“Within those there are small schools, large schools, boarding schools and international schools, each with their own special ethos and character, but each with the drive to provide the best educational experience possible, and using the services of the ISA to achieve that. The association’s provision for members, their school and their pupils to have access to opportunities for sport, art, music and drama, and outstanding professional development, is inspiring for the sector, and it is this that shows us to be leading the way in that provision.”

What sets us apart from other membership associations is the pure breadth and diversity of our members – Phil Soutar

Besides the “eternal scrutiny of the Independent sector”, Soutar said that challenges in the coming year would include revised guidance on keeping children safe in education, the consultation on the Independent School’s Inspectorate’s inspection framework (the deadline for contributions has been extended to 23 September, in light of the death of Queen Elizabeth II), and “continuing that academic and pastoral excellence that ISA schools are well known for”.

Soutar’s focus in the coming year, he said, will be to celebrate the organisation’s diverse membership, adding:

“I would like to put forward an open invite to any member from any school who would like me to visit to get in touch. I would be truly honoured to see for myself the superb array of work that is going on in our various types of ISA school.”

Soutar will serve as ISA chair until August 2023.

Pic: Rosemead prep school, where Phil Soutar has served as head since 2017

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