March 2021. Quarantine Arrangements for Overseas Students. Holiday Plans.

Wednesday March 17th, 2021

Welcome to the March edition of your newsletter. It’s strange to think that this issue used to feature a social calendar where I would collate the pick of exhibitions, events and social opportunities new and old! Instead, this issue marks a year since we started talking about coronavirus and its impact on all our lives and our children’s education. We may still have to wait a while to attend those events – but at least things are looking more positive, with schools starting back, robust plans and systems in place for testing and quarantine, and more than 23 million people in the UK having had their first vaccine (as of 8 March 2020).

I hope the return to school has gone well for your family and that the rest of this term is positive and productive. In this issue we’ll aim to help you plan ahead as well as exploring the consequences of coronavirus – good and bad – on the education system.

Quarantine arrangements for overseas students

In a welcome update since our last news on this, it’s been confirmed that overseas students from so-called ‘red list’ countries can return to the UK and board at their school instead of a government-approved hotel, provided they and their school meet a number of criteria outlined in the full guidance. As yet this only applies to independent boarding schools in England.Key points include:


You can read the full guidance here, talk to your child’s school or contact us for more information.

Holiday plans

London Bridge CoursesWe’re delighted that a number of summer schools will be returning this summer. We work with all the summer schools in the UK and some summer schools in Europe and help our clients to select the one that best suites their needs.

Here is an example of one summer school we recommend to our clients. There are many others, do enquire with us.

SKOLA will be running its summer school at Regent’s University, located within Regent’s Park, London, from 21st June to 14th August 2021.

You can book for any number of weeks within that window, for a six-day or five-day week (full days, 9am till 4:30pm) or five half days, 9am till 12:20pm.

Students aged 10 to 16 follow this weekly programme – adapted slightly for younger attendees (aged six to nine):

I love the fact that SKOLA can also arrange parent and child homestays near Regent’s Park and that parents can study at the same campus.

Catching up

No-one wants to apply more pressure to children or their families after such a difficult year, but everyone is conscious that certain elements of education – not necessarily the purely academic aspects – will require some ‘catching up’.

The UK has announced an additional £700 million of funding to support this in state schools, with the onus on schools to decide the how, when and whom. For example, schools could opt to run summer classes for pupils, or pay teachers overtime for extra teaching.

This pot of money is solely for state-run schools, but several UK independent schools are considering similar options. The government funding also boosts the national tutoring programme for primary and secondary pupils in state schools and includes an extended tuition fund for students aged 16 to 19.

But many parents of state-educated children had already decided to pay for private tuition. The Sunday Times reported that demand for London-based tutoring services increased dramatically during 2020, with some organisations reporting three times as many bookings as in a typical year.

Along similar, but less academically-focused lines, American platform Outschool provided over 100,000 live virtual classes worldwide in 2020, representing an increase of 2000%. Classes are taken, not by teachers, but by experts in any field, from maths to entrepreneurism to cookery to comedy.

This raises an interesting point about the difference between remote and classroom learning. We’ve talked about the pros and cons in previous blogs, but it’s interesting to me that there is huge demand for classes delivered by industry experts, not necessarily teachers. Traditional classroom teaching techniques need careful adaptation to work in a remote environment. And theoretical knowledge should be complemented by industry expertise wherever possible. For me, the great thing about the UK’s independent schools is that they have the resources to make these adjustments and additions to their curricula, and in many cases were already doing so pre-Covid and pre-lockdown.

Your child’s school will share the details of their specific plans for catching up, but if you’d like to explore tuition options with us, please get in touch.

How the application process is evolving

It’s interesting, though perhaps not surprising, how the pandemic is shaping the application process for the UK’s independent schools. Schools are evolving differently, but some changes have had to happen across the board, such as online assessments instead of sitting written papers at a specific school. We talked in a recent blog of the benefits of one online assessment over school-specific tests. And now some schools are choosing to base selection on school reports and CAT scores supplied by a pupil’s prep or primary school, whilst others are favouring a short pre-test and a longer video call interview over the traditional 11+ written paper.

Some people argue that this is a positive move and one that should be maintained, even as education (hopefully) returns to ‘normal’. Critics believe the 11+ places too much onus on one performance – and on limited subjects – rather than monitoring a child’s all-round potential and competence. They argue that 10-year-olds won’t necessarily have good exam technique or the resilience to bounce back after a difficult or off-putting question. And pupils end up dedicating months to swotting up on verbal and non-verbal reasoning problems instead of reading novels, doing science experiments, applying maths to practical problems or playing music and sport – arguably far more beneficial activities for their education in the long run. Their viewpoint is that problem-solving skills per se should be by-products of a first-rate education rather than its primary focus.

We’ll watch the evolution of the application process and selection system with interest, but I’m inclined to agree that some changes forced on schools by the pandemic might save time, stress and money for everyone as well as proving more efficient measures of potential.

Don’t forget that we specialise in matching pupils’ ability and aspirations to the best UK independent schools to help them achieve their full potential. Drop us a line today for a no-obligation chat.

Spotlight on…

Brighton College

Voted the Sunday Times Independent School of the decade, 175-year-old Brighton College has gone from strength to strength under the leadership of headmaster Richard Cairns, former deputy head of Magdalen College School, Oxford. When he took over in 2006, Brighton College was ranked 147 in the Sunday Times Parent Power Guide; four years later it had reached number 41 and in the last ten years, the proportion of A* grades at A-level has risen from 28.4% to 44.2%, it has been named Independent School of the year twice, been awarded the coveted ‘school of the decade’ accolade and rose to third place in the Sunday Times rankings last year.

The vast majority of alumni go on to study at Russell Group universities, with an increasing number winning places at Oxbridge since Cairns took up his post. It’s also a high-ranking school in the independent schools’ sports leagues, particularly in rugby, cricket, netball and, notably, beach volleyball. More than 30 alumni have competed for their country in the past decade, in sports ranging from cricket and rugby to athletics.

For Cairns, it’s been important that sport and exercise at the school is as inclusive as possible – supporting students of all sporting abilities and also addressing gender imbalances in activities such as dancing and cricket. A growing number of boys join girls in ballet, jazz, tap and street dance classes – and old Brightonian Clare Connor became the first female president of the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) in its 233-year history last year. Cairns has trebled weekly sports sessions so that all pupils get more opportunities to benefit from the school’s top-level coaches.

He has also striven to eradicate the silo mentality between departments, his vision being to break down barriers between various aspects of school life: academic, sporting, pastoral, etc. The recent £55 million new building reflects this drive, with 18 impressive, university-standard laboratories sandwiched between a 25-metre pool in the basement and a state-of-the-art running track on the green rooftop.

Cairns attributes the school’s achievements to its emphasis on kindness and tolerance alongside inspirational teaching. “At the end of our lives we will be judged not by what car we drove, what house we owned or job we held but by how we made people feel,” he says in the Sunday Times.

He and his team aim to teach these values through action. Students support a range of community projects all over East Sussex on an annual basis and volunteer weekly for charities, serving hot meals to homeless people or teaching English to Syrian refugees. The school actively participates in the Brighton Pride festival each year and all Y12 pupils, not just those studying history, visit Auschwitz. Cairns’ vision for his beloved school is about understanding others as well as yourself, fostering empathy and success.

Brighton College fact file:

For more insights into the top UK independent schools – their ethos, strengths and successes – contact us for a no-obligation chat.

Why teaching empathy is important

Researchers at Cambridge University have found that children are more creative and can solve problems far more effectively when they are taught or encouraged to empathise.

This research, published last month in the journal Improving Schools, echoes the idea that as humans we’re hard wired to respond to specific, personal examples rather than facts alone. That is to say, our understanding of a situation beyond our experience is much deeper if it’s explained with recourse to a person’s story.

Y9 design and technology pupils were asked to create a toolkit or pack for a child under six who has asthma. Their brief aimed to foster empathy and included more details about the challenges and dangers the child faced – for example, a video of a child having an asthma attack and data about the number of childhood asthma fatalities in the UK – than their counterparts’ brief at the ‘control’ school. Theirs followed curriculum-prescribed design and technology lessons without the same level of personal detail or insight.

Both sets of packs were compared using an established psychometric test to assess creativity. Initially, creativity scores for the control school were around 11% higher than the school with the more emotive, empathic brief. But ultimately, creativity scores among that group were 78% higher.

These findings from the year-long study (part of a collaboration between the Faculty of Education and the Department of Engineering at Cambridge called “Designing Our Tomorrow”) suggest that teaching empathy might be a slow-burn route to success – but a sure-fire way to succeed in the long game.

Lecturer in psychology and education at Cambridge’s Faculty of Education, Dr Helen Demetriou, echoes Cairns’ sentiments at Brighton College, noting that: “We clearly awakened something in these pupils by encouraging them to think about the thoughts and feelings of others.”

She said the research shows that not only is it possible to teach empathy, but that doing so can help develop children’s creativity and wider learning, supporting Cairns’ vision that by nurturing “emotionally intelligent learners” we can defy gender stereotypes and breed success for individuals and wider society.

Until next time

Stay safe and keep looking forward to a less socially distanced spring and summer!