A retrospective view of 2015
Julie Robinson looks back at the events of 2015, through her role as General Secretary at the ISC.
In April I became the new General Secretary at ISC. My headship and Association background has helped me to settle in. I have focused on understanding the purpose of ISC and developing key contacts, ISC team-working and developing an understanding of the structure and rather complex workings of the organisation.
Our small team represents a large range of interests with a very broad remit: with the direction of the ISC Board which comprises representatives of the seven Associations, we aim to protect the interests of the sector at national policy level, promote positive reporting of the data that we collect about our sector and find ways to support Associations as well as school management in areas of mutual interest.
The aim of ISC is to be a service organisation promoting and protecting the independent education sector and the five principal activities of ISC are to:
- Provide authoritative research and intelligence about the sector
- Provide legal and regulatory information/guidance
- Provide online access and support informing parental decisions
- Promote the sector through lobbying and communications
- Provide a meeting place in central London for members
We have a new Head of Research this year and the team continues to respond to members’ enquiries whilst working on analysis of the annual ISC census and exam results. There is technical work going on preparing a superb new benchmarking tool for schools, the “census data viewer”, so that in 2016 each school will be able to make automatic comparisons against other types of schools for a range of types of data. We are also making an initial investigation into whether data can be automatically imported to the ISC census from schools’ management information systems in the future.
Next year’s research will include a “soft value-added” project with schools to collect information about character-building.
The information gathered and analysed by the ISC research team is used to underpin press releases regarding, for instance, good news about pupil numbers rising. It is also used to inform schools about important issues such as affordability and to rebut sensationalist media headlines.
This trends analysis and data is not otherwise available for the independent education sector and we are supported by a range of expert working groups who feed-in information and raise issues that are important for schools.
Legal, Policy and Lobbying
Legal, Policy and Lobbying ISC’s Legal Counsel attends meetings with DfE, the Home Office, UKVI, HMRC and the Charity Commission. She works with them and represents the sector so that policy makers appreciate potential concerns and the impact on the independent school sector. She also monitors developments so that she can inform and update member associations and schools through association meetings and the monthly ISC Report.
This year’s issues have ranged from the Charities Bill which moved from the Lords to the Commons this winter (we have been particularly busy informing Parliamentarians of the good work that schools which are charities already do in support of public benefit); the many safeguarding policy issues which have been shaped by Prevent, FGM and KCSiE; Alternative Dispute Resolution for those who have exhausted a school’s internal procedures; Early Years, the cost of childcare and tax-free childcare; and the numerous changes to tier 4, notably thanks to her work Biometric Residence Permits can be sent directly to schools.
Our base in Westminster helps us stay close to the action and there are always plenty of developments that we endeavour to keep you abreast of.
Our web team has introduced a new ISC website with a new School Search facility for parents. They have also developed another website in association with the Independent/State Schools Partnership forum at the DfE called “Schools Together” which showcases effective cross-sector partnership projects. The website will be public in January.
There is a brand new communications team at ISC bringing you the ISC Daily News Summary (now consistently earlier in the mornings than before) so that you know the top education stories of the day. They place positive stories about our sector and help to balance negative or misleading reports and they are able to draw on ISC’s research and legal functions, acting quickly in promoting and protecting the sector using real information.
As well as daily news, we send to members a monthly report of relevant information for schools and a six-monthly roundup of the same for schools’ internal use. An information pack to support schools in responding to the Goddard Inquiry is its latest helpful publication.
The ISC office next to St James’s Park is busy with all this activity and also hosts Associations’ and schools’ meetings in our two meeting rooms, bookable online. We continue to take enquiries from schools, parents and journalists daily.
The ISC staff team is glad to have visited ISC schools including Westminster, Bedales, Latymer Upper, West Lodge, KCS Wimbledon, St Edward 's Birmingham, King’s Cambridge and King’s Rochester, Ratcliffe College, City of London Freeman’s, Haberdasher’s Monmouth and others in 2016.
It is important that ISC attends Association conferences - HMC, IAPS, GSA, ISBA, ISA and SoH as well as important Association committees and to that end the Chairman, General Secretary and other staff undertake speaking engagements at courses and conferences.
Through our contacts with Associations and information to schools we exchange important information about the big issues for you in order to represent, promote and protect the sector.