The future of teaching in independent schools is uncertain. With budgetary constraints, public opinion and the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic, times are difficult for those working in private education.
There are many lines of enquiry when it comes to the future of teaching in independent schools and what it will look like. Let’s explore some of the current pressing issues for the industry and how they’re being dealt with.
Every school in the country has had to make budgetary adjustments in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. There's a particular concern for the finances of private schools who make their own income. These have had to either drastically reduce their fees and in some cases, miss out on them completely.
There’s also a chance new students won’t arrive in this coming autumn depending on government guidance.
Before the pandemic, the sector was already facing rising costs and competition from state schools. Also, in September of 2019, the Teachers’ Pension Scheme began a 40% increase in employers’ contributions.
David Woodgate, the Chief Executive of the Independent Schools’ Bursars Association, noted: “It’s not coronavirus alone but it was almost a final straw on top of other financial threats.” This means independent schools could potentially be looking at a future of significant closures.
If parents have found their incomes hit by the pandemic, it’s highly likely they’ll opt for cheaper avenues of education for their children. It’s also the case that many private schools, especially those in the North of England, will be ‘bust by Christmas’ according to an article by the TES.
There’s also the possibility of a deep hit to financial revenue generated by overseas students. It’s still yet to be seen, but the coronavirus pandemic (as well as the uncertainty of the Brexit outcome), could mean it’s all the more difficult for foreign students to come to the UK.
On the other hand, with private schools lowering their fees, this may make the UK more desirable as the standard of education here is still world-renowned.
Political Issues and Public Opinion
While many students don’t attend independent schools, they still represent the choice of education for 6% of the UK’s school population. That’s around 615,000 pupils. While independent education has had issues of poor public opinion in the past, it’s still a fundamental way of life for many children and young people.
To mitigate the financial pressures being felt by some schools, there have been calls to nationalise these institutions in order to keep them open. A recent article in The Guardian mentions how some private schools have already made this change and are feeling the benefits. For example, Queen Elizabeth’s Grammar School in Blackburn became a state school in 2014, after it had felt the pinch of the 2008 financial crisis.
According to the article, 32 private schools have been nationalised since 2010. Nationalisation and that influx of government funding would work to mitigate the damage of state school shortfalls, should any private schools close unexpectedly.
In other parts of Europe, this transition has been mirrored. In Finland in the 1970s, they opted to abolish private education, favouring a universal, comprehensive model. Whether it can be attributed to this change is difficult to prove, but they now have one of the most successful education systems in the world, consistently topping world rankings.
It’s clear that in the future, private education needs to make an effort to change the public and political opinion surrounding its continued existence.
The Future of Teaching: Remote Learning
The COVID-19 pandemic has taught us about teaching is, when combined with technology, it’s inherently flexible. Video conferencing apps such as Zoom and work management platforms such as Trello can be used to keep track of work and increase communication.
It may be a trend of independent schools to offer this kind of bespoke remote learning - which may even be popular with foreign students who then would not have to leave home.
This may mean the future of teaching independent schools could be one more focused on digital literacy and learning. Schools will need to create their own digital methodology and communicate it to all those involved, including students and parents.
It should be built into the curriculum. In light of the recent pandemic, blended learning - a mix of online and in-person - could become the norm and even represent savings in terms of utilities and upkeep.
This isn’t to say entire curriculums will be digital as they may be supplemented with digital learning opportunities instead. Because of the bespoke nature of independent curriculums, a digital approach would potentially fit well within the makeup of independent schools.
It’s difficult to fully imagine what life might be like for both education professionals, students and parents. However, we can be proactive and remain up-to-date with current trends and information. To learn more about the impact of COVID-19 on education, download our guide.
The State of Education: Post-Lockdown and Post-Brexit
Education in the UK is facing the dual challenges of both the coronavirus pandemic and uncertainty surrounding Brexit. In our guide, you’ll discover the issues and possibilities these two situations are creating, especially for higher education institutions.
To get your free copy, click on the link below.