The very first Confidence Index results are in. UK independent school heads, bursars, marketers and admissions professionals responded to the survey we ran in conjunction with School Management Plus earlier this year in their droves and the feedback makes for fascinating reading. MTM’s Managing Director James Leggett provides the analysis and the background to The Confidence Index 2022.

When the team at School Management Plus came to us at MTM with the idea of launching an annual survey of school business leaders that would gauge their confidence in their roles and the sector as a whole and give us the opportunity to chart the changes year-on-year, of course we jumped at the chance to be involved. Market research is very much a core function of MTM and there is literally nothing we love more than a survey!

Combine that with an excuse to get under the skin of the people working in the UK independent education sector – people who are our clients and, in many cases, our friends – then we did not hesitate to count ourselves in.

The respondents

The questions for the survey were carefully formulated and kept brief – we know how busy you all are. Online was the perfect medium we thought – ten minutes of clicking through a coffee break wasn’t too much to ask we felt. It seems we were right – the response has been very pleasing. We launched the survey in January and by the time we closed it in April, staff members from more than 150 schools had taken part.

 

That accounts for 10% of schools in the Independent Schools Council (ISC) – a very healthy representative sample. Nearly half of our respondents work in schools in the south of England but the rest were evenly spread across the country. Staff from schools of all sizes – fewer than 100 to over a thousand pupils – were involved. Our survey particularly appealed to marketers – unsurprisingly, as they tend to be pretty clued up as to the value of market research – and 48% of respondents told us that was their role; but we also had a very respectable turn-out of bursars and finance leaders (27%) and head teachers (18%), so it was wonderful to have their input too. Two-thirds of our respondents had been in the job for more than three years and 19% had stuck with it for 11 years or more.

The questions

Having established that our respondents are experienced and established, the scene was set to start interrogating them, gently of course. Our questions were designed to discover their views on a whole range of topics related to their roles in UK independent schools and their opinions of the sector in general. Naming the survey The Confidence Index was completely deliberate – at the nub of this piece of market research was the desire to find out just how secure these leaders feel now, and how optimistic they are about the future.

A summary of the survey’s findings follows, but you can read full details in the report ‘The Confidence Index 2022: The Results’ sent to all participants, or sign up to receive it when it’s released by emailing office@mtmconsulting.co.uk

 

We asked, you answered, we listened: Confidence Index results in a nutshell

 

Overarching issues

We asked our respondents for their views on the overarching issues affecting the UK independent education sector.

Inevitably, a key question was: What is the most important area your school needs to focus on to adapt to the post-Covid world?

More than two-thirds of our respondents – heads, bursars and marketers alike – stated that ‘wellbeing’ is now their primary concern. We wonder if this would have been the headline had we run a similar survey five years ago? Probably not. MTM‘s everyday research and interaction with schools tells us that the wellbeing of students – and also of school staff – has rightly shot up the agenda over the past year. This has prompted MTM’s involvement with Happy Space UK, a charity offering resources to schools to help look after pupils’ mental health.

In addition to wellbeing, also on the minds of school marketers are sustainability and parent advocacy, while bursars told us they are particularly concerned about recruitment and online learning. Meanwhile the heads surveyed feel schools need to focus on development projects.

In all, the outcomes of The Confidence Index 2022 make fascinating reading for anyone involved in the UK independent education sector. A snapshot of the key findings follow, but to read in more depth, please do get hold of the full report by emailing us at office@mtmconsulting.co.uk

And don’t forget to take part in next year’s instalment of The Confidence Index!

 

How long are you staying?

Two-thirds of the heads, bursars and marketers who participated in The Confidence Index 2022 plan to stay in their posts for at least three more years. They say they appreciate the pleasant working environment.

 

What keeps you awake at night?

Respondents in all job roles said they are concerned about the potential impact of VAT of school fees. Unsurprisingly, heads also say they are concerned about TPS, but finance team members feel they have a handle on it; recruiting staff is more of a worry for them.

 

Hands up, who feels confident?

The most self-assured of our respondents are the school finance professionals, who told us they have a grip on their areas of responsibility, with the exception of managing cost strategies. Heads said they are confident they know their school’s strengths and its market, but are less sure about their ability to recruit and retain good staff. They also told us they sometimes struggle with boards of governors and having access to necessary resources. Marketing staff know their roles, feel reasonably confident in their ability to recruit, but said they are often unable to track their activities effectively. Sadly, half of our respondents said they don’t have a good work-life balance, and two-thirds regularly feel anxious or stressed in their roles. Highlighting these concerns will hopefully prompt schools to tackle them, for the benefit of the professionals who took part in The Confidence Index 2022 as well as their counterparts across the sector.

MTM can help you feel more confident in your school’s success – just have a chat with the friendly team.