It’s been a year like no other, except perhaps 2021 and the year before that. And don’t forget 2016.
Ok, it’s been a hell of a year, with massive global events having a real-life impact on domestic independent schools and international schools around the world.
No aspect of school management — from leadership to marketing, admissions and finance — has been left untouched by events.
Here, we bring you one or two highlights from the year at Independent School Management Plus, from the most thought-provoking opinion pieces to the news items and practical features that had us all looking up from our breakfast cornflakes.
“It’s been a year like no other, except perhaps 2021 and the year before that. And don’t forget 2016.”
We also include some of our best interviews, most exciting new headship appointments and school announcements that have got readers clicking over the past 12 months.
In January, in a year that would turn out to be chaotic to say the least, former chemistry teacher Andrew Lochery made a call for more chaos in the classroom to unleash creativity and “fantastic results”.
Later, Irena Barker interviewed Donna Stevens, chief executive of the Girls’ Schools Association, who explained that data and research will be the key to making the case for girls’- only education in the coming years.
In February, the debate around the purpose of GCSEs was highlighted by Jeremy Lewis at ACS International School Egham, who called for them to be scrapped to “reduce stress”. He said the exams prevented pupils “thinking for themselves” and contributed to the youth mental health crisis.
Mental health, of course, was a huge theme for the year, and Dr Helen Kelly explored some big issues around teacher wellbeing in this popular article.
February was also marked by an all-out teacher strike over pensions changes at schools in the GDST group, the first ever in its history.
And of course, at the end of February came the Russian invasion of Ukraine, plunging a world starting to recover from the pandemic into further turmoil.
“Stories emerged of how independent schools were supporting Ukraine and its refugees.”
David Cole at the British International School in Ukraine spoke of the massive challenge that the invasion had presented to the school, and the resilience of colleagues who ensured no child went without an education.
Throughout the spring, stories also emerged of how independent schools in the UK and internationally were supporting Ukraine and its refugees. Rossall School in Lancashire provided a home to a Ukrainian family while other schools took on refugees as boarders or contributed to fundraising and other efforts.
Schools in the UK were also left grappling with energy price rises, something tackled in our energy saving tips provided by the Independent Schools Association.
In April, debate erupted over girls taking STEM subjects, when the government’s social mobility tsar Katherine Birbalsingh told MPs that physics was not a subject girls “tend to fancy” because it contained “hard maths they would rather not do”.
“University admissions were also in the spotlight this year — when are they not?”
Alex Hutchinson, head of James Allen’s Girls’ School, responded on School Management Plus, saying plenty of girls love physics but the real danger was putting some off through “lazy stereotypes”.
University admissions were also in the spotlight this year — when are they not? — with top universities’ efforts to admit more pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds under scrutiny.
Former independent school head Bernard Trafford argued that applicants should not be “defined by their postcode”.
Later in the year, Helen Pike at Magdalen College School wrote about the work she and colleagues had carried out to ensure independent school pupils eligible for free school meals can have this flagged up on their university applications.
In June, as thousands of young people were sitting their A-levels, we carried this piece from Henry Linscott at North London Collegiate School, calling for a “British Baccalaureate”, an idea in sync with the now prime minister Rishi Sunak, who wants exactly that.
Talking of politics — the role of education secretary became a dizzying revolving door in 2022, with endless changes as Prime Minister Boris Johnson clung onto power. Nadhim Zahawi was axed on July 5 to be replaced by Michelle Donelan who became the shortest serving education secretary in history after resigning her post less than 48 hours after she was appointed.
She was replaced by James Cleverly, who reigned for an astonishing two months during the summer holidays until Kit Malthouse took over under the short-lived kamikaze PM Liz Truss.
“Kirrili Williams reported on the exodus of teachers from international schools in China.”
His replacement – the state educated former factory apprentice Gillian Keegan — was installed under the latest UK prime minister Rishi Sunak in October and appears to be steadying the ship, despite a number of recent remarks infuriating teaching unions planning strikes over pay.
All this upheaval caused the Labour party to surge in popularity, and the spectre of its policy to introduce VAT on admission fees loomed, prompting furious debate.
Meanwhile, in the world of international schools, Kirrili Williams reported on the exodus of teachers from China, but also highlighted why some have seen the big financial benefits of staying, despite draconian anti-covid measures sometimes making life hard.
In probably the most unforgettable news episode of the 2022, the death of the Queen was announced in September, triggering outpourings of public grief, queuing and many events at independent schools to mark the solemn occasion. Our writers highlighted the good example the Queen set to the young in terms of duty and steadfastness, and we explored her visits to independent schools over the decades.
“The Middle East has nonetheless become a top destination for international teachers.”
In October, the world had a glimpse into life at Winchester College — one of the last bastions of boys’ only education — as it introduced girls for the first time. And in November, the arrival of Rishi Sunak in Downing Street was a new first — the first UK PM from an ethnic minority background. Irfan Latif from DLD College highlighted how momentous this could be, stressing the importance of representation at the top. Our feature on diversity in recruitment would also prove a popular read this year.
After an autumn of turmoil, the World Cup in Qatar burst onto our screens in November, with huge debate over the ethics of the event, given Qatar’s reported treatment of migrant workers and anti-LGBT laws.
But while some may have been ambivalent about the event, School Management Plus ran a feature explaining how the Middle East has nonetheless become a top destination for international teachers lured by good rates of pay and a booming education sector. In the UK, the recruitment picture was bleak however, with schools struggling to fill posts.
In December, we highlighted the work being done at Royal Hospital School in Ipswich to support staff going through the menopause, while Bedford Girls’ School head Gemma Gibson wrote about the school’s work on sex and consent following the Everyone’s Invited revelations. Girls were not only angry with the perpetrators of sexual harassment and assault, they were angry at their schools for not stopping it, she wrote.
The year then came to an end in a flurry of snow, nativity plays and carol singing, with independent and international schools flooding social media with heartwarming photos of events to finish off another crazy but perhaps more hopeful year.
*This review has only scratched the surface of the year on School Management Plus, so please explore the site for more.
Top Movers and Shakers in 2022:
Will Goldsmith was installed as the permanent head of Bedale’s School
Elizabeth Stone was appointed as the new head of Winchester College, from September 2023.
Vicky Bingham, head of South Hampstead High School, will become head of North London Collegiate School in September 2023, the school announced.
Top school announcements in 2022:
Bradford Grammar Latin teacher qualifies for Commonwealth Games
Sherborne School pupils launch their own “listening service”
Likely Lads creator Ian La Frenais returns to Newcastle school
Bassett House School launches pony partnership
Spotlight on a School of 2022:
Sherborne School, Dorset
30 minutes with… interview of 2022:
Marina Gardiner-Legge, Oxford High School