Why our research is in demand

We were invited to enter the schools market by those aware of our reputation in the business world. Much of our business sector consulting work focuses on providing organisations with the management information to allow properly informed operational and commercial decisions. This approach has been of increasing importance in the independent schools sector, both because of schools’ growing business-oriented governance but also because relentless competitive pressures upon the sector are causing schools of all kinds to examine with proper robustness how they are actually performing. Sometimes our clients are the UK’s most successful schools, wanting to ensure they remain at the top of their game; sometimes schools are keen to know precisely where they should prioritise their improvements. Sometimes we are engaged several years into the school’s current headship; and sometimes we are engaged upon change of Head, to ensure that Head and Governors have a fresh understanding of the changing market around their school, and that the new Head has a properly informed mandate for change.

The reason why we have been so exceptionally busy since entering the market in 2011 – and almost entirely by reputation, as we carry out no form of advertising – is our depth of professional expertise, first in uncovering issues affecting schools’ performance, and then in applying business-sector rigour to the nuance of how schools should move forward given their unique competitive position. We are the most exacting of assessors, believing – as in the business world – that there is little purpose in our clients undertaking an expensive research exercise without an intent truly to understand where weaknesses may lie, and where the most compelling improvements can be made. Schools engaging us must have an appetite for a mirror to be held up, entirely fairly but dispassionately, and for a detailed and constructive assessment of where they should focus their efforts.

This approach has generated our reputation. We have a steadily growing client base, and usually a 2 – 3 month waiting list for our research projects.

Our unique specialism: qualitative research interviews

The most effective way to understand the true reasons for parental perceptions and preferences is depth telephone interviews, where our researchers explore a series of topic areas agreed in advance with the School. We have developed an exceptional research approach through our extensive research work in the banking and business sectors: we do not approach these topics in any scripted manner nor in any set order, as both of these practices tend to make the process overly stilted and to close down interesting conversational avenues.

A typical research study entails 100 telephone interviews, although this is driven by the pupil roll and therefore varies from school to school. Each interview lasts, on average, between 10 and 15 minutes. The interviews typically entail four parent groups: parents of existing pupils; parents who have recently chosen the school; parents who enquired at the school but did not accept a place (with these two groups serving to audit the admissions process and to identify why the school is winning or losing versus its competitors); and parents who moved their child to another school.

All calls are carried out anonymously, such that the comments made are not linked to the parents’ name; nor are the School advised which parents have been interviewed. This degree of anonymity is essential if parents are to feel able to speak openly.

The result of this exercise is a detailed report and presentation, using substantial verbatim comment, and with specific recommendations for improvement in admissions procedure, marketing material, positioning, infrastructure, and in the running and focus of the educational experience.

A typical qualitative research exercise of this type costs £9,000 (including VAT).

We have accumulated an unparalleled set of testimonials in the course of our many such exercises [See testimonials]