Ultimate Solutions Guide for Independent Schools
For independent schools, there may be turbulent times ahead. They are under increased scrutiny regarding their charitable status, which puts extra pressures on ﬁnances from increased business rates as well as other issues such as teachers’ pensions and a competitive sector.
Evidence suggests pupil intakes are up, but this is alongside a rise in economic challenges, not least of which is the uncertainty surrounding Brexit. At a time when independent schools are facing rising costs, business rates are just yet another additional pressure faced by independent schools.
As the landscape for independent schools shifts, both culturally and economically, it is all the more important that they are able to reduce their running costs wherever possible. One potential area for this is in successful business rates appeals.
This success, however, requires a diligent assessment of individual circumstances, combined with a joined-up approach to challenging valuations of schools for business rates.
For some, the future may look uncertain, but the solution lies in controlling those variables that can be controlled, and adapting successfully in changing times.
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"As the landscape for independent schools shifts, both culturally and economically, it is all the more important that they are able to reduce their running costs wherever possible."
Tackling Rising Costs
Like other businesses, independent schools face constant pressures on their income. One of these is to do with pension scheme contributions. More and more schools are considering quitting the Teachers’ Pension Scheme because the alternative is to pass the growing costs onto their customers, fee-paying parents.
Rising running costs are an ongoing issue for many independent schools, and they are facing tougher competition from the state sector, with many local schools performing exceptionally well and offering parents a free alternative.
There are demographic shifts in the customer base of independent schools too. Many must ﬁnd a means of marketing both to more traditional boarding families and a new generation of potential customers.
With digital skills increasingly on the agenda, independent schools must look at spending more on ICT to bring in pupils. They must invest to attract, although, this is against a backdrop of limited ﬁnancial reserves in many cases, with stretched facilities and small proﬁt margins.
These pressures are demanding an increasingly business minded, commercial mindset on the part of school staff, including bursars.
"With digital skills increasingly on the agenda, independent schools must look at spending more on ICT to bring in pupils."
Highlighting the Public Benefit
If, at one time, the main audience to which independent schools had to appeal to was paying parents, they must now consider their place in a wider educational context.
Offering bursaries as well as school facilities for community use are often regularly commented on within a public beneﬁt context, however, one practical route for schools to take is to look at partnerships with state schools.
If independent schools can show a commitment to support raising educational standards in general, including state schools, this can add value to them in the wider public eye.
It has far wider-reaching implications than simply being a charm offensive though, as it can offer tangible and measurable beneﬁts to the education sector.
"These pressures are demanding an increasingly business minded, commercial mindset on the part of school staff, including bursars."