I’m greatly looking forward to the School Proprietors’ Association’s inaugural conference at Great Houghton School, Northants, tomorrow. Educationalist James Croft (Director of the Centre for Market Reform of Education) and his SPA colleagues have done sterling work in getting this off the ground.
Proprietorial schools are often overlooked in the national education debate, with the public schools and the maintained sector grabbing all the media limelight. Yet they represent a signficant grouping in the UK, quietly delivering both high educational standards and excellent value for money. Of course, proprietorial schools are themselves diverse, encompassing both large chains of schools and tiny, family-owned invididual schools, and everything in between.
From our own experience of working for proprietorial schools at Edge Media, we’ve found that their parents generally care very little about who owns the school – there’s certainly no sign that they object to a profit motive in education – yet they care very much indeed about exactly those two qualities of academic strength and cost-effectiveness.
What’s interesting is that in today’s UK education scene – Free Schools et al – proprietorial schools may well constitute an idea whose time has come. Their tradition of academic rigour, financial flexibility and, dare I say, a can-do attitude may be just what is needed as the Government moves towards increasingly localised and diversified education provision within an economic climate that remains uncertain at best.
Time will tell. In the meantime, while proprietorial schools may be generally low-profile, it is of course important that they are not isolated. Tomorrow’s conference will be an excellent opportunity for proprietors to make contacts, share good practice and catch up with the latest thinking. Edge Media are there because I (Paul Herbert) am offering free marketing and communications consultations to member schools. It should be a good day.