This is a Premium feature
To use this feature subscribe to Mumsnet Premium - get first access to new features see fewer ads, and support Mumsnet.Start using Mumsnet Premium
Prep school heavily advertising(16 Posts)
Just after a little advice.
My DD currently attends preschool in the nursery class of a local prep school. They were taken over by a 'group' a year ago and have since changed head, name, uniform etc etc. They stopped all boarding (very low numbers) at this time and have tried to reinvent themselves.
Since September, they have also been heavily advertising in the local area. Flyers, roundabout signs, ads in magazines/panto programmes....
We love the school, and especially the pre-prep building and set up. We would quite like to send our DD here for 'proper' school.
I suppose what's holding me back, is the niggling worry in my head that they are advertising because they have worryingly low numbers (I'm not sure if this is the case) and are on the brink of closing.
Should I be finding back ups? Would this high level of advertising worry you? Or am I being silly, and it's just something a school would do when they have a rebrand?
I would be very sad for my DD if she had to change schools after others were already settled.
Thanks for any advice.
My daughter’s school closed a few years ago. It went like this- falling numbers (9 in a class), expensive advertising campaign, 1 term’s notice that it was closing. What are the numbers like?
We market our school extensively to keep up the demand, our numbers are growing year on year and we have a wait list in some year groups. We are certainly not failing or struggling, yet we do advertise, don’t let it out you off unless there are other factors that would suggest they are struggling. Class size is a key indicator.
Also if they were taken over by a group there will now be stronger marketing support for the school.
You can easily gauge numbers by going to a school event such as sports day. There might be more money for advertising but it might come at the expense of qualified teachers. I would keep an eye on it.
DD’s prep school advertised and it was absolutely full with waiting lists for all classes except reception. No classes had less than 20 apart from reception which was always around 16 and up to 20 by year 1 and 22 by year 3
I think you need to find out numbers in the school. Usually private schools have a limit on the number of children in the class eg20. I would therefore assume that give or take give or take a few children that is how many kids they need to make the books balance.
If they have low numbers across the board it is worrying. But that said if it has been taken over there should be some scope to weather the storm while numbers improve.
I think you could have a fairly frank discussion with the head/bursar about your worries and you wouldn't be unreasonable.
I'd be looking at the composition of the year group classes as another indicator. I'll try to explain what I mean by that - I worked in a school like this (advertisements everywhere in the local area very very heavily) and we had a pretty standard nursery class, reception, Y1 and 2 were merged and then Y3-6 were all in one class.
Reason being that the senior schools were expanding heavily down the age range so the school was losing pupils at the upper end very very heavily - wouldn't have been initially clear just from looking at class sizes because they were all around the 12-15 pupils mark - but when you saw the age balance of the school like that it was clear.
Wasn't 100% the fall in numbers at the upper end of the school that led to its closure (a few went to the wall the same year we did - for similar reasons - expansion of the "big" guns down the age range) but it was that, combined with things like a staff baby boom that pushed the figures to the point they announced closure at very very short notice (and various staff had to go through legal processes to get money they were owed - but that's another story). To be honest, ours was run by a husband and wife team who owned the school, the property had been eyed up for years by property developers, and their final child had left the school the previous year so I think they'd lost interest in their little project as well - if the ownership had been transferred to a big education group I think things would have panned out differently - but the owners basically wanted to flog the site to a property developer and bugger off to their holiday home for 6 months.
Private schools in my area are advertising noticeably more this year than I've ever seen before. Afaik they aren't in any danger of closing, maybe it's just something schools are starting to do more of
It's a difficult one. Almost all prep schools do advertise but there is an understandable concern if you sense there is some over-advertising. A school local to us closed a few years ago and another similar one is advertising very heavily and seems to be struggling. They have very small classes and staff shortages so look at staff turnover too. I think you are right to be wary in your case.
I would look at class sizes up the school as all the previous posters have said.
A colleague moved his child into a school with 10 in his class because they felt it would give him more individual teaching. I cautioned him at the time that it's very hard for a school to survive with such low year groups. The school folded the following year.
Advertising is just normal and schools have raised their game these days on that front.
Are there lots of private schools in the area? We moved recently to a spot where there are lots, hence lots of advertising in a crowded market
Thank you all so much.
Class sizes - the roll for the last ISI report (sept 2017) was an average of 19 per year at junior level. There are lower numbers in yr 7 and 8 but half the kids seem to be heading for 11+ rather than common entrance. The preprep is smaller, and one yr group I know has only 6. I know the new head has said max 18 in a class.
There are about 4 Indys you could reach within 30 mins drive, but it's by no means overpopulated with them! None of these others seem to have advertised at anywhere near our chosen schools level.
Thanks all, seems there is less than I thought to worry about - but I shall certainly keep my eye on those numbers!
It seems fine in that case. Increasingly preps find it hard to hang onto the boys till CE so smaller numbers in year 7 and 8 are expected. If other years are 18+, I think you can relax.
What is the group that have taken over the school? Have a look at the other schools they run. If they are big, it is likely that the school we survive as it will receive plenty of investment and marketing to improve it.
These groups generally do manage to turn schools around just enough to make them more profitable.
It might be worth taking a look to see if you can get hold of the accounts at Companies House. You might need to go up to the new group company. I would be more worried about staff turnover/maintenance.....cutting back on 'the offering'.
We have several very successful private schools near us. Class sizes are a bit erratic between years but huge in comparison. Most of the senior schools are massively over-subscribed (but again, year groups vary A LOT).
They are all very active on social media and advertising and have swanky websites (they are always building some new block/winning a competition etc...). I think for them it is all about reassuring the parents that they are great schools and building/maintaining "brand awareness" in the community and for prospective parents.