Increasing pupil numbers as Covid-19 sharpens parental appetite for independent education

Sponsored: MTM Consulting are experts in independent school marketing. Having worked with over 500 independent schools, Daniel Cohen discusses how changes in parental perceptions of independent education are an opportunity for the sector

Running an independent school is difficult, especially now. Running an independent school as a business is a necessity.

Now, I do appreciate that is anathema to many that work within the education sector, but to be able to provide a top-class education to your students, you must have a solid business underfoot. This allows for investment in equipment, facilities, teaching and innovation – and above all else will enable you to provide the education you want to deliver to the customer who expects it to be delivered for the fee they are paying.

The last six months have been a challenge to say the least and it is very easy to fall into the trap of believing there is little or no upside with your main focus being on firefighting and trying to keep what you already have in place, but there is always opportunity and never more so than now in the independent education sector.

A light has been shone upon the inadequacies within the state education sector – as a parent of a 10-year-old who is at a state primary school, I can honestly say that the lack of engagement and effort to provide any sort of meaningful education over the last six months has been shocking and disgusting. By no means am I the only parent that feels this way.

This brings about an opportunity for forward-thinking schools to attract more families to their provision, as our most recent survey The Impact of Covid-19 on Parental Perceptions of Independent Schools shows; 60% of non-fee-paying parents in our sample would now consider fee-charging schools for their children.

The profile of the fee-paying parent has changed and is continuing to evolve. Before, independent schooling was a tradition and was expected amongst certain families, but now there are many first-time buyers. Aspirational parents who make numerous sacrifices to send their child to your school and as such want to see a return on that investment.

As our most recent research reveals, the top four reasons why these families would choose a fee-paying school are better academic results, better quality of teaching, smaller class sizes and greater all-round education.

All this information demonstrates the opportunity is available to increase pupil numbers and your standing within the local market, so the question is, how do you go about it?

There are three key points which you need to consider.


An understanding of how the business is in its current position, an understanding of where the school sits in the local market in comparison to its competition; be that,
● occupancy
● financial situation
● standing within the local marketplace
● operational structure
● local birth rate
● reputation.


● Why do you have the pupils you have?
● Why have they stayed loyal?
● Why have pupils left before their natural time with the school has finished?
● Why did those that enquired to your school go elsewhere?
● Why were you not considered in the first place?


This is a natural progression of having examined awareness and retention. Understanding the points above allows you to look at your options for growth for attracting more pupils, such as possibly expanding into prep, pre-prep or secondary or even considering co-ed.

The independent education sector has been up against it for some time and undoubtedly there are large challenges ahead now and also in the immediate future, but a keen awareness of your business model will allow you to rise to these challenges.

Now you can really shout about the more than viable alternative you present to the state sector. You all do so much good, not only in terms of education but also your contribution to the British economy, that it would be a crying shame if you were unable to grasp this opportunity in front of you.


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