How a boarding school uses agents
– Elaine Purves, Head of Rossall School
Choosing the right school for your child is one of the biggest challenges any parent faces. This is where a good agent can be invaluable. Like a financial adviser, it’s their job to match a customer with a product that’s perfect for them – in this case finding a school that meets a child’s needs.
An agent acts as a school’s representative, and has in-depth knowledge of each school with which they work. Ideally, the agent will have visited each school they represent to gain a clear understanding of their aims and ethos, and will have met pupils at these schools so they have an insight into the sort of pupil who will fit in there.
Agents also provide support to boarding schools by setting up fairs and exhibitions where families can meet with schools. This is a great way for parents to view a number of schools at the same time without travelling to the country they wish their child to board in. For example, the British Council runs fairs in a number of locations worldwide and can be an excellent source of help and advice.
A good agent will work hard to build strong relationships with schools and parents alike to ensure they develop and maintain a good reputation. Placing pupils at schools that are unsuitable for them or having a large number of pupils leave a school can be damaging and suggests a lack of understanding of what a school can offer and what a child needs.
Support for parents
From a parent’s point of view, the agent should act not only as a broker, who can present a shortlist of schools which meet their criteria, but also as a support to help them make the right choice for their child. A good agent will be totally focused on the child’s needs and happiness and try to support parents into considering the right school for their child. An agent only has one chance to help parents make the right decision. Getting to know a family so they can find a school that’s a perfect fit for child and parent alike should be the agent’s main goal.
An agent should be in constant contact with the schools they represent and be able to offer parents literature and a good outline of the schools they’re interested in and not just rely on websites for information. They should also provide excellent customer service, from the parents’ first meeting to helping them create a shortlist of schools throughout the admissions process and for a while after your child has started at the school. You may have friends or other family members who are considering a school abroad, and a good agent will rely on recommendations from families they help successfully. An agent should see their relationship with you as something long-term and concentrate on building that relationship rather than securing new clients and focusing on their fees.
Guidance for parents
When you are choosing an agent, there are a number of points you should consider.
This article does not imply a recommendation of any agents by either Bulldog Publishing or The Boarding Schools’ Association.
Elaine Purves studied at a comprehensive school in Nottingham before reading English and German at Hull University. After spending a year in Germany teaching English as a foreign language, Elaine took up a post at Oakham School as a German teacher and resident tutor, and later moved to the Royal School in Bath where she became a German teacher and international coordinator. Elaine was later appointed Deputy Head of Sixth Form and Head of Languages before taking on the post of Deputy Head when the school became the Royal High School. Her first headship was at Ipswich High School for Girls, where she spent seven years, before joining Rossall School three years ago.