With education becoming more important and the choices so much greater, parents are finding it increasingly difficult to decide which schools are right for their children. The Independent Schools Show (ISS) helps visitors to make informed decisions based on knowledge imparted by Heads and senior staff from over 240 exhibiting schools. Sophie Keay speaks to David Wellesley Wesley, the Founder, to find out more about the Show…
You set up the Independent Schools Show (ISS) 13 years ago - how did this come about?
Having spent 2 years working in the exhibitions sector, I had the idea to bring schools and parents together and it was a chance meeting with a pre-prep friend who funded the deposit for the venue.
Is your background in education?
Other than the fact that I loved my time at school, no - I worked for Haymarket Exhibitions between university and setting up the Independent Schools Show.
What can parents expect to gain from visiting the Show?
An education in education and to very possibly discover the perfect school, certainly for reassurance and to feel the positive energy of a buoyant sector. Our aim is to help parents plan their child’s future.
How diverse are the speakers this year?
Every year we enhance the Education Theatre timetable based on visitor feedback. This year we introduced Junior and Senior Theatres to make it easier for parents to choose talks that are most relevant to their current needs. We have a diverse range of talks and a great line-up of expert speakers. Our theatre programme is featured on our website www.schoolsshow.co.uk. We have more than 30 talks across 3 theatres and aim to sell-out every one!
What percentage of exhibitors are London Day Schools as opposed to Country Boarding Schools and how do you decide on these ratios?
About 50/50 – and a great deal of our parents are relocating out of London and looking for country day – this trend is increasing.
There are 240 schools exhibiting this year – how is this growing from year to year?
Numbers stay the same, the space at the venue is finite so we will not grow any more and we have a waiting list of schools.
Are there other establishments and businesses exhibiting?
About 10% of stands are non-school and chosen to enhance the visitor experience. These include educational consultants, magazines and revision book publishers. Purple Dragon will host activities and The Exploration Society will be toasting marshmallows on an open fire outside. Our Show partner Porsche will feature games and activities to keep visitors entertained. We have a diverse range of talks and a great line-up of expert speakers.
This year leading boarding schools from Ireland, Switzerland and the USA are also exhibiting – are more parents choosing to educate their children abroad?
Yes, certainly at university level and that may be trickling down into secondary education.The overseas schools all offer something interesting and the diversity of London represented by our visitors means it’s a good place for them to be.
Can visitors expect to see improvements to the Show, as outlined in visitor feedback from your 2018 post-show report?
The Show has improved every year not just in footfall, but visitor experience and feedback - we take a lot of time to make sure the show is as good as it can be for all stakeholders.
How would you advise parents to prepare prior to visiting the Show?
The first and most important step is to visit our website www.schoolsshow.co.uk to register for tickets, which are free when booked in advance. The website has key facts on all exhibiting schools and details on how to get to the Show. Our advice is to be prepared, do your research and have a plan of whom you want to see and talk to.
I gather the ISS is now worldwide, which other countries are the Shows held in?
Getting there! We have Shows in locations around the globe and recently hosted Shows in Monaco, Geneva and 3 locations in India. Our next tranche of Shows begins in Kuala Lumpur on 21st November and continues in 5 more locations across Asia. For more information, visit our sister website www.britishboarding.schoolsshow.co.uk
On the political horizon, what challenges do you see for Private Education?
On the Abolishing of Private Schools craziness from the Labour Party Conference, I agree with Tom Rogerson at Cottesmore. “At Cottesmore, the girls and boys are taught to create, to build, to collaborate. Take a look at the big digital technology companies - they build better and better products over time and subsequently the previous technology becomes obsolete. If you intend to dismantle someone else’s work, first build something better in its place. Destroying something because you can’t better it disguises a lack of strength, creativity, dynamism, sophistication and ability. Protecting people’s right to choose is clearly the way forward.”
THE INDEPENDENT SCHOOLS SHOW WILL BE HELD AT BATTERSEA EVOLUTION IN BATTERSEA PARK, SW8 4NW ON 9TH & 10TH NOVEMBER 2019.