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Dealing with oppositional defiant disorder August 26, 2010

Posted by Alex, Managing Director in Special Educational Needs.
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As teachers around the world make their final preparations for the start of the new school term, most will be crossing their fingers that their new classroom is free of major behavioural problems.

Here, leading child behavioural expert Fintan O’Regan discusses ways to cope with the ‘defiant child’. This article first appeared in the summer 2010 issue of International School magazine.


Oppositional Defiant Disorder is diagnosed when a child displays a certain pattern of behaviours that includes losing their temper frequently, defying adults, being easily annoyed and deliberately annoying others. These are definitely not the individuals to get into an argument with. It is a less extreme behaviour than Conduct Disorder but, left untreated, can overlap into areas associated with this.

The key elements are that these are children who display the following characteristics:

•    Argues with adults
•    Refuses and defies
•    Angry and defensive
•    Spiteful and vindictive

In essence they display a ‘counter-will’ against authority, especially when frustrated or stressed. They are often completely inflexible in these situations and the more pressure is applied to make them conform the greater the opposition.

The reasons and origins of this condition are difficult to detect clearly but often the pattern will indicate frustration and intolerance as a result of some other type of SEN, for example ADHD or Dyslexia, lack of structure and patience in early child development, low academic and self worth or a combination of all of the above.

In many ways these are the students who say “You can’t make me”, “It’s not fair” and “Whatever”. Douglas Riley in his excellent book The Defiant Child (1999) defines some of their behaviours as:

•    They live in fantasy land where they can defeat all authority figures
•    They are optimistic and fail to learn from experience
•    You must be fair to me no matter how I treat you
•    Seek revenge when angered
•    Need to feel tough
•    Feel you will run out of moves eventually
•    Feel equal to their parents
•    Emulate the behaviour of their least successful peers
•    Answer most questions with “I don’t know”
•    Logic revolves around denial or responsibility

Likely to cause teachers and parents the most grey hairs and sleepless nights, these are the students who need to play up to the crowd, be seen to win the argument and have the last word…

Click here to read the rest of this article. Fin O’Regan is one of the world’s leading experts in behaviour and learning training and consultancy. For more details contact him at www.fintanoregan.com

Advice for independent sector NQTs: “Don’t expect angels…” August 25, 2010

Posted by Alex, Managing Director in Independent Education, Leading Schools of the 21st Century.
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Around 1000 Newly Qualified Teachers will this week take their first professional steps inside classrooms in independent schools across the UK.

To help ensure their first year goes as smoothly – and enjoyably – as possible, we teamed up last year with the Independent Schools Council Teacher Induction Panel and the HMC to publish Newly Qualified Teachers and other entrants into teaching – the fourth title in our popular Leading Schools of the 21st Century series.

To throw some light on the sometimes confusing, daunting, frustrating, challening – and exciting – few months of teaching, here we republish some of the thoughts and advice given by co-editor Judith Fenn, also head of school’s services at the ISC.


Choice and opportunity attract new teachers into the independent sector, but once there, what can they expect? The rewards of teaching are great, but so too are the challenges. It is not a profession for the faint-hearted, perhaps because it is half-profession and half-vocation. The first year can be unbelievably tough and tiring, and there will be times when the cycle of preparation, planning, delivery, reflection and marking seems unending and unremitting.

Yet the emotional lows of the first year are more than matched by the highs. Yes, the emotional carapace necessary for any teacher’s survival is not yet fully formed, and hence NQTs are more vulnerable than their more experienced colleagues; but the joy of delivering a successful lesson, of forging a relationship with a class over time, and of seeing the results of efforts made, produce a euphoria which more than sweeps all the negatives away.

Independent schools contain a mix of nationalities and religions which provide a welcome international and multi-ethnic perspective to education and, because of this, they promote an understanding of, and a tolerance for, other points of view. So, for example, teaching modern history to a sixth form set comprising Chinese, Japanese, Lithuanian, Dutch, Iranian, English and Scottish students brings a syllabus into far sharper focus, especially when you are told by one of them: “You teach Mao as history, but for us, this is how we live.

The sector looks after its teachers by providing an environment conducive to pupil learning. The low pupil:teacher ratio gives its schools smaller class sizes and allows the teachers to teach, rather than spending time fire-fighting disruptive behaviour. These two inter-related factors are the most frequently cited reasons for working in an independent school.

A small note of caution ought to be sounded here: this is not to say that a new teacher should expect a class of angelic children whose perfect behaviour is matched only by their perfect grades. Children are childrenwherever they may be, and the subversive, bored, bright child in the back row on a warm Friday afternoon is a particular independent school challenge for the NQT.

The opportunity to teach a completely different curriculum is a professional development opportunity that is virtually second to none for secondary teachers. Even with the recent syllabus changes at GCSE and A level, it is so very easy to slide into an annual rhythm of delivery and results (via re-sits), but a new curriculum brings a new ethos and provides intellectual stimulation and often a much needed review of pedagogic practice.

If something is hard, and if something takes time, the rewards seem that much more tangible and lasting. Teaching in the independent sector is not an easy or soft option, and the challenges which exist take time and effort to overcome, but once conquered the job (or vocation, or profession) is the most rewarding that anyone is likely to have. Having it also happens to be a privilege.

Hope for a new golden age of boarding August 23, 2010

Posted by Alex, Managing Director in Independent Education.
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Around 65,000 pupils across the UK will be in their final days of preparation for a new year of boarding at independent schools. According to the ISC Cenus, this figure represents fewer than 10% of pupils at UK independent schools – and the ratio has been falling steadily for a number of years.

In this article, first published in the spring 2010 issue of Boarding School magazine, Colin Morrison, chairman of the Royal Wanstead Children’s Foundation, makes the social case for a new boarding school policy.

In recent years, Royal Wanstead has been campaigning for government help to reverse the decades-long decline in the number of boarding school places, not least for vulnerable young people.

Our research into assisted boarding “outcomes” has shown that, after a settle-down period, these young people are more likely than their peers to become above-average performers in boarding school, measured not just academically but also by their sporting, social and relationship skills. The research shows also that their family relationships are improved too. We believe this out-performance by assisted boarders is at least partly explained by the fact that these young people recognise the golden opportunity to transform their lives – and seize it with both hands.

Crucially, assisted boarding can help prevent more young people needing eventually to be taken into local authority care with all that means for their development, education and family relationships. Royal Wanstead has used its research to encourage the take-up of assisted boarding by local authorities as part of the DCSF’s Pathfinder project, for which we have been working since it was a twinkle in the eye of former Education Secretary Charles Clarke back in 2003.

The stark reality is that there are now some 40% fewer boarding school places than 20 years ago. So, at a time when so many young people (whether vulnerable or not) might benefit from the pastoral care of boarding school, there are many fewer opportunities to do so. The current total of 70,000 boarding school places is a very low point indeed. Boarding, which once accounted for the majority of independent school places, now comprises just 7% of them. This alarming decline may have been spurred on by two factors.

The first is the loss of revenue from local authorities which, until the mid-1980s funded and part-funded boarding school places for many vulnerable young people, most of them not ‘in care’. In 1971, the year of the closure of our own Royal Wanstead School, there were 216 children wholly or partly funded by local authorities at this school alone and that was a pattern repeated all over the country. Nationally, at that time, there were an estimated 10,000 boarders supported by local authorities. By 1988, that total had fallen to perhaps 3,000 (including those children supported by independent charities like Royal Wanstead). In 2010, local authorities are helping fund a mere 40 boarders, with charities making up an estimated total of perhaps 600 assisted boarding places.

The inexplicable 1980s collapse in local authority support represented a dramatic loss of total “demand” for boarding. Put another way, if local authorities were today supporting 3,000 young people in assisted boarding (as they did 20 years ago), schools would have additional revenue of £70m – equivalent to perhaps four additional boarding schools.

The second factor accelerating the decline in boarding is the swing in popular attitudes against boarding (perhaps reversed in recent times, courtesy of Harry Potter) and towards independent day school places. This trend may have been encouraged by a boarding fee “premium” that, at most independent schools, is only about 20% (or some £5,000). This relative diseconomy of boarding may just have had some influence on cost-conscious governors.

Click here to read the rest of this article and view archives from previous issues of Boarding School magazine.

The Royal Wanstead Children’s Foundation started life as an orphanage in London’s East End more than 180 years ago and developed into a charity operating two boarding schools, largely for children with one or no active parents.

Since the closure of its own schools in 1971, Royal Wanstead has been instrumental in the development of what we call ‘assisted boarding’ in which charities work together to fund boarding education for vulnerable children at schools of their choice. During the past 39 years, Royal Wanstead has helped support 2000 vulnerable children at 150 independent and maintained boarding schools throughout the UK. Currently, it is supporting some 250 young people at 90 boarding schools.

Fostering resilience: preparing students for failure… August 20, 2010

Posted by Alex, Managing Director in International education.
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In the opening of an excellent article in the April 2010 issue of International School (is) magazine, Margaret Halicioglu considers practical ways we can help our students accept that some failure in life is inevitable

All good schools around the world are now addressing 21st century skills, teaching children problem-solving, cooperative learning, environmental awareness, understanding of and appreciation for the ideas and traditions of others. However, there is another skill which needs to be taught: how to be resilient in this dynamic world.

The vast majority of current first graders in most international schools will enter careers which currently don’t exist, using technology which hasn’t yet been invented. These children may have to change career up to five times in their lifetime, a situation which most teachers have neither experienced nor would want to.

Adapatability and resilience are crucial skills if our children are to be successful: emotionally, socially and professionally. It is an unfortunate fact of life that, just like us, our students are going to face situations where they feel unsuccessful. As J K Rowling said in her Harvard University commencement speech in 2008, “some failure in life is inevitable”. Working in Turkey’s top private school, where entry is restricted by a stringent national exam, where only the top 5% of Turkey’s 8th graders successful in this exam have the chance to enter Robert College, many of my students end up disappointed and frustrated by their apparent failure here.

Used to being the brightest student in their primary school, they are now one of 220 exceptionally bright students of the same age, and they face the fact that they cannot all be number one. This sense of failure may not seem as acute as a child in another school who, for example, has always been weak academically, who is used to getting poor grades and who struggles on a daily basis to understand what is going on in the classroom. However, both kinds of students may sink into depression and need help in learning how to be resilient, how to bounce back, and to learn from their real or perceived failure.

Teachers play an important role in showing students how to be resilient. If teachers can let their students know that they are worried about failing at something, even something as simple as mis-spelling a word on the board, then they are modelling the fact that it is acceptable to be worried about not getting something right.

To read the rest of Margaret Halicioglu’s excellent article, click here to visit the International School (is) magazine website. Margaret is Dean of Student Affairs, Robert College, Istanbul.

Perse Head: A Level pressure can only increase August 16, 2010

Posted by Alex, Managing Director in Independent Education.
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The third Thursday in August is A Level results day in the UK – and educational observers and experts are predicting a somewhat chaotic scene this time around.

A record 200,000 students could miss out on a place at university this year, despite the government creating extra places.

An 11 per cent surge in applications could leave ‘a significant number’ of young people disappointed, higher education minister David Willetts has said. With A-level results due on Thursday, Mr Willetts said: “It is going to be very tough this year, I don’t disguise that. Last year there were 160,000 young people who applied and didn’t get a place. It could be a greater number this year.”

Edward Elliott, Head of The Perse School, Cambridge, told us in his piece 2010 and beyond in the editorial section of this year’s Which London School? & the South-East, that the problem could get worse over the next decade.

Budget cuts will have a negative impact on higher education, and universities will reduce the number of undergraduate places available to cut costs. A combination of continuing A Level grade inflation, (no self-respecting educational minister will want to preside over the first fall in A Level grades in 20 years), and fewer undergraduate places will make it even more difficult to get into the top British universities.

Independent schools will react by spending even more time and resources, assiduously preparing their pupils for university admissions tests and interviews, and gathering intelligence on how university selection processes really work.

This skilful student preparation will more than offset any social engineering which the government may require admissions tutors to carry out, and when coupled with the higher examinations grades achieved in the independent sector will ensure that the majority of independently educated pupils get into their first choice university.

This said, an increasing number of independent pupils may look at the British university sector and decide to apply to North American institutions instead (where costs can be similar and arguably the education better). Independent school students are by definition sophisticated consumers of education, and they will want to select the best undergraduate courses on offer wherever that may be.

The globalisation of higher education for undergraduates is here to stay…

Be ready for new ISI inspection August 9, 2010

Posted by Alex, Managing Director in Independent Education.
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The Independent Schools Inspectorate (ISI) have kindly provided us with news of their new system – and some tips to ensure that your school is as prepared as possible.

Thanks to Julie Booth, Head of Independent Schools at Capita Children’s Services, for kindly writing the below for us…

Under the new Independent Schools Inspectorate Framework, schools will now be inspected every three years, rather than the previous six year cycle. Additionally, Standard and Interim inspections will now be alternated, depending on the results of a school’s previous inspection.

The notice period given prior to an inspection has been reduced from 17 weeks to just five working days but there are a number of things you can do to ensure your school is ready when the inspectors call.

Be well informed

Don’t make assumptions about what documents need to be made available to inspectors as this will only create unnecessary stress on the day. The ISI produces a guidance booklet that contains a complete list of the documentation that needs to be provided before, during and after an inspection. This will give you all the information you need.

Provide up-to-date information

You need to ensure the information you provide to inspectors is current so preparation is essential. Many schools regularly record details such as their students’ academic attainment or extra curricular achievements on a management information system (MIS). The advantage of this is that it allows them to produce current and detailed reports on how their students are progressing in school at the touch of a button. The more data you store, the more you can provide as evidence of the success of your school’s education strategies, which is key to a successful inspection.

Make the most of your system

An MIS can provide powerful tools for tracking pupil progress but many systems also help with good record-keeping so make sure you are getting full benefit from your investment. You may be able to set up standard alerts that will remind you to review school policies, update staff CRB records and ensure that visas for any overseas students are current, for example. By keeping on top of these routine tasks throughout the school year, you’ll be one step ahead when notice of your inspection arrives.

Keep staff training up to date

The ISI offers a range of training and advice on preparing for an inspection. Your MIS provider may also run courses on getting the maximum amount of information out of your system with the minimum of effort. Plan ahead to make sure your staff understand what the information requirements are for their area of responsibility and build all their training needs in to your usual development planning cycle .

Julie Booth, head of independent schools at Capita Children’s Services

The Holy Trinity of school advancement: PR, Marketing and Educational Development… August 6, 2010

Posted by Alex, Managing Director in Independent Education, Marketing, New releases.
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As promised, some further information on the latest title in the Leading Schools of the 21st Century series. Nigel Richardson, former Head of The Perse School, Cambridge, The Dragon School, Oxford, and chairman of the HMC, has been involved in the series from the very beginning and tells us that the book has come along at just the right time for the independent sector…

Public Relations, Marketing and Educational Development is Volume Six in JCEL’s Leading Schools series. Earlier books have focused on the work of Heads; senior management teams; Heads of department; newly qualified teachers and those involved in pastoral work.

Once again HMC (the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference) is co-sponsor – this time with AMDIS (The Association of Marketing and Development in Independent Schools) and IDPE, (The Institute of Development Professionals in Education).

Why this book, and why now? Lots of reasons…

Schools increasingly recognise the professional and technical expertise which can be used in these three areas to support their work: three areas which make up a virtuous circle.

Where Public Relations is concerned, the independent sector is never far from public scrutiny. Reputation, and its management, matter. Schools must work hard to win – and to retain – friends and customers.

For the customer, the economic downturn since 2007 and the prospect of rising taxation, higher university fees, increased healthcare and pension charges and continuing house price inflation (in the long-term, as least) prompt two big questions. Is an independent education really worth it? Can I afford it, either for the whole of my children’s education or for certain parts of it? Hence the importance of good marketing.

The way in which we market ourselves is changing, too. The book dwells a great deal on the importance of market research and market strategy – and on the challenges posed by the dramatic growth of the internet, websites and new social networking media. Some schools have adjusted very quickly to these opportunities; others have barely begun. In small day schools and large, federated-house boarding schools alike, the admissions department must be well-ordered and efficient; it is responsible for processing the outcomes of the strategy.

Meanwhile in terms of educational development, many schools will rely increasingly on income produced other than by fees – both to promote greater access through bursaries and in order to fund their major capital development. Because many current parents cannot pay more, schools will have to be more proactive in finding private individuals as benefactors: hence the need to look for former pupils and other potential donors who have made large fortunes whilst still quite young; to promote legacy campaigns and to run a successful Telethon. The Development Director’s success depends a great deal on good PR, too. Thus we come round the virtuous circle to the point at which we began.

We have encouraged our contributors to centre their advice on their own experience; to write as they feel, in these three areas of work which are so closely interlinked and so many-faceted. We hope this book will inform, challenge, and above all make readers think. Editing it has certainly given me plenty of food for thought – and I’ve learned a lot in the process.

Nigel Richardson, co-editor

Stand out from the noise: create a school “Love-Mark”… August 2, 2010

Posted by Alex, Managing Director in Independent Education, Marketing, New releases.
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We are just putting the finishing touches to the latest release in our Leading Schools in the 21st Century series, published in partnership with the HMC and other leading educational associations.

Public Relations, Marketing and Development – scheduled for release at the end of September – is the sixth book in this popular professional development series, and focuses on helping independent schools continue to advance and achieve success in these changing times.

In addition to HMC, this particular book is equally co-sponsored by two further organisations: The Association of Marketing and Development in Independent Schools (AMDIS) and The Institute of Development Professionals in Education (IDPE).

Co-editor and chairman of IDPE Nick Pettingale has kindly written us an introduction to the book, detailing why the role of marketing is so crucial to independent schools in the modern age and why a “master brand identity” is crucial to be heard over the “clutter”.

Many thanks to Nick for writing for us. We hope to also hear from co-editors Nigel Richardson and Tory Gillingham of AMDIS over the next few weeks.

I took on the editing of this book on behalf of the IDPE for several reasons, as outlined below, but primarily because I believe this is the time for the independent schools sector to embrace marketing and development wholeheartedly.

For so long these two professions were dirty words, often boiled down to ‘selling’ and ‘fundraising’, quite rightly anathemas  to most Heads. Of course marketing is much more than ‘selling’ and development is much more than ‘fundraising’ as this book demonstrates.

Without a doubt, the role of the development professional is now integral to the future of independent schools in the UK. We cannot simply keep on increasing school fees to fund capital development or even bursarial support. Our schools need, more than ever, a professionally overseen development strategy, as well as assistance in implementing the best of good business practice and someone to stand alongside the Head and keep an eye on the future, whilst they do what they are called to do and that is educate children.

You will read much in this book that is practical, down to earth, clear, simple advice, good processes and techniques but let us not forget that people still fundamentally buy with their emotions FIRST. Therefore how we capture who we are, promote our uniqueness and position our ‘brand’ is critical.

In today’s business environment it is increasingly difficult for an organisation to be noticed or even heard. The clutter, volume and visual overkill of competing messages is overwhelming. As a result, more and more organisations are concentrating on developing a uniform, easily recognised “master brand identity” to communicate who they are to the public. This is increasingly true of the independent schools sector too. One only has to think about the turnaround of M&S aided by simply adding the word YOUR to its brand identity or Tesco’s ‘every little helps’ – Orange, ‘the future’s bright’ or HSBC, ‘your local bank’ all capturing an emotion rather than a hard or true fact.

The best current example is BMW – ‘we don’t just make cars, we make joy’ – selling an emotion and Guinness – ‘bring it to life’. People ‘buy’ with their hearts and justify their choices with their heads, not the other way round.

Our schools are uniquely positioned to generate and become what Kevin Roberts [CEO Saatchi and Saatchi Worldwide] calls a ‘Love Mark’ [as opposed to a trade mark]. Our schools generate huge feelings of warmth, love and loyalty from our past students, and sometimes even our current parents, which is beyond reason and logic at times.

However, so much of this love and warmth can lie dormant and untapped without a professional development strategy in place. Someone to take responsibility of capturing, coordinating and channelling that goodwill, to benefit the school of today and our students of tomorrow.

Each year hundreds of people form impressions about your school based on your ability to communicate and your public image. Perceptions are real and very hard to change once established even if they are inaccurate. People make judgments about who we are and what we stand for — our credibility, our competence and our caring. That’s why the impression we create and how we communicate is so important.

Marketing and Development are here to stay; some schools already know that and have a fully functioning, professional set up in place. Others need to catch up and quickly.

Nick Pettingale, co-editor, IDPE chairman

This particular book is equally co-sponsored by two organisations, which have come into existence much more recently than HMC (founded in 1869): The Association of Marketing and Development in Independent Schools (AMDIS) and The Institute of Development Professionals in Education (IDPE).