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【The Standard】How we are working to reduce school hopping in the UK

Boarding 101


In the last article, I looked at how schools can help combat the problem of school hopping by Chinese students in the UK. Now, I will look at some of the solutions we are pioneering at Britannia StudyLink.

Providing clear information

We try to operate in a completely different manner to many of our fellow Hong Kong agents. We strive to saturate the market with a wide range of information on UK independent schools through our educational columns and guest slots on local radio stations.

We’ve even brought FAMA, Hong Kong’s version of Ant and Dec, to the UK to study at an HMC school for 10 days. This was aired on prime-time Hong Kong television. This is our unique way of providing clear information to parents and students so that they understand what particular schools offer and don’t have to school hop further down the line.

Looking beyond academia

We also strive to promote those aspects of UK boarding school education that go beyond academia.

These make up a huge part of the experience of actually living at a school and being happy there. Not fully understanding these in advance is one of the causes of unhappiness in students and subsequent school hopping.

These aspects include the culture of a school and its extra-curricular activities: speech days, sports fixtures, house activities, theatrical productions, The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, art clubs, music and, perhaps most importantly of all, the sort of friendships made at school that can last a lifetime.

This qualitative aspect of education simply cannot be measured through statistics and league tables.

We’ve always understood this and ensured that all the information we provide is truly comprehensive.

Parents are beginning to appreciate this as well – October 2018 marked our fourth anniversary and, today, more than a third of students studying in the UK came through Britannia.

This is not an attempt to convince prospective parents of our success as a business, but also a call to UK independent schools to let them know that parents in Asia are no longer looking merely at academia.

They are assessing the potential for a school to develop their child into a fully-rounded individual who is not only capable of passing exams with flying colors and submitting assignments on time, but also able to interact effectively with others and contribute meaningfully to the 21st-century workforce.

Consulting with schools on managing budgets

A crucial part of our work is exactly this sort of communication with the schools themselves. In particular, we are constantly consulting with schools on how they can best invest their resources.

Spending the budget on incentivizing agents with high rates is becoming common practice that, unfortunately, inadvertently encourages school hopping. Instead, we recommend tuning into the world of modern marketing.

In the last 10 years, marketing has changed drastically. Print magazines and billboards have been replaced by content marketing.

The most effective forms of communication are now news advertorials, share-able articles and social media posts. Not only do these help to build a personal relationship with parents but they also allow for a more nuanced approach.

Of course, every school wants to say it offers the best all-round education, but far more effective than pushing a generic image is to convey a school’s USP.

If you’re good at getting students into American universities because you’re an SAT center, say it.

The world is changing fast. Both schools and parents have to keep up.

Finally, it is important to remember that, really, there’s no such thing as a good independent school or a bad independent school – this is too simplistic.

Every school offers something different, from the international style of CATS College to the traditional experience of Radley College.

It’s the responsibility of the agency to guide families through the differences and make sure that they are properly informed before they make important choices about the future.

That’s really the key to reducing school hopping.

I was distinctly average, academically, when I was a boy, but the study experience I had in the UK was truly phenomenal and exactly the reason why I am doing what I do now.