For the weekend of 11 - 12 November, The Independent Schools Show (ISS) returns the Evolution London, Battersea Park for it’s sixteenth year.
The ISS is the biggest show of its kind in the world. It needs to be. Britain has over 2,500 independent schools, and privately educated children are most likely to attend more than one of them – possibly several as they move through the year groups. And siblings may attend different schools. For fee paying parents, this creates – literally – millions of potential choices about where to educate their children. Add to this tsunami of variables a further massive overload of choice, where the clue is in the name. While independent schools may look fairly generic, they all have distinct cultures, some that have been allowed to mature independently for a long time – a good number since well before the Conquest.
Over the years, all the leading independent schools have been involved in the ISS – as speakers at one of the four lecture theatres, or one of the hundreds of exhibitors. The sheer quantity of talks, exhibiting schools, supplementary advisors of tuition, university advice, education software etc. is staggering. And it is all under one roof. Bearing in mind that schools attend from across the UK and overseas, and that many Londoners will leave town to live near their chosen school, wherever it happens to be, the ISS saves parents vast amounts of time – it takes thousands of SUV journeys to visit schools off the road.
Charles Bonas, an education commentator, advisor and tutor provider was so impressed with the concept and the energetic drive of the ring master, David Welleseley-Wesley, that he joined forces with him in 2009. Charles writes:
‘I grew up in the countryside, so when I drive out of London on a Sunny day to visit a school, I am almost completely diverted by the beauty and space of the campus. What’s fascinating about the dynamic of the shows is that admissions staff and head teachers are removed from this splendour to what is effectively a fairground setting (albeit with professionally presented stands, set in the glorious autumnal colours of a central London park). Rather than greeting parents at the end of an oak lined drive and taking them up porticoed steps, past portraits of their predecessors and into a panelled study, they are only as impressive as the personal impact they make on the weekend attired families who pass by and casually stop to talk. This really focuses minds not so much on whether a school has the right A Level combinations (important as that is), but on shared values and ambitions, empathy and communicability. And parents have many such conversations, in the space of a few hours, to make comparisons. Without the backdrop of vast swards of playing fields and magnificent libraries (the tour can come later), the answers are almost immediate and transparent’.
The ISS is a great supporter of the most superb small country Prep schools, some within commuting distance of London; others tucked away in far flung Shires. While the senior boarding experience has some impressive imitators in the New World and Switzerland, British Prep schools are entirely unique. Parents should come and speak to their heads before Keir Starma’s VAT impositions make many of them financially unviable. And we will be running a boarding experience trail, where children peel off from their parents and head for a climbing wall, drama workshops and marsh-mellow grilling.