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Falling pupil numbers - a deal-breaker?

Discussion in 'Career clinic' started by onbekende, Nov 12, 2018.

  1. onbekende

    onbekende New commenter

    I've got an interview for a HoD job at what seems to me a really good (independent) school, but a colleague of mine managed to somewhat burst my bubble by making a throwaway remark about pupil numbers. I looked them up and found they are down about 10% from 5 years ago!

    How significant is this? I obviously don't want to end up somewhere that is super strapped for cash so there's no budget to do stuff or worse still, somewhere headed for closure? Or is 10% within the range of normal fluctuations and recoverable?

    Also, given my apparent naivety on the above, are there any other statistics I should check or questions I should ask about this place? I've checked the obvious things like ISI reports, exam results, etc. - all positive. (Note - it's quite far geographically so I don't have access to the local 'grapevine' so to speak.)

    Thanks to all for any pointers you may have!
     
  2. mothorchid

    mothorchid Star commenter

    While this might quite rightly cause alarm bells, I wonder if there are other reasons, which could be defensible. For example, a change in the post 16 courses might lose a few students. It could be a statistical blip; depending on how big the school is, a couple of families moving away might lower the numbers a lot. Or loss of a classroom for some reason might mean the school has had to shrink the numbers of pupils.
    You should ask the school about it. Also, ask about waiting lists. If there are long waiting lists then no problem. If there are none, then I would delve deeper.
     
    onbekende and agathamorse like this.
  3. Skeoch

    Skeoch Star commenter

    Have a look at the financials. If a charity, the Charity Commission website; if not, Companies House website. Ask at the interview.
     
  4. caterpillartobutterfly

    caterpillartobutterfly Star commenter

    Depends on the size of the school.
    In a small prep 10% could spell disaster.
    In a large all through school 10% is nothing.
     
    onbekende and agathamorse like this.
  5. ViolaClef

    ViolaClef Lead commenter

    Fully endorse what @Skeoch says. I believe you can view the school’s audited accounts on the Companies House website. The accounts can be quite complex to understand but you can certainly see if there are any reserves, whether the school is heading for the precipice or how many staff are paid at a particular level.

    Falling rolls is not usually a good sign in the independent sector. What you want is either stability or increasing numbers. I would proceed with caution. The end, when it comes, is without much warning. If there are redundancies, then as a recent addition to the team, you could be in the first batch to go. Apologies if this rings alarm bells, but I know people who’ve been there!
     
    onbekende likes this.

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