Golden Jubilee Annual Conference for Heads 2016
6th May 2016

The Annual Conference for Heads hosted by BSA Honorary President, Tony Little, was held in Manchester from 3-5 May during the BSA Golden Jubilee year.  Please click here to view the conference video, filmed by Eye for Business.

The conference was a great success and secured wide coverage across the national, local and education media.  Speakers included Nick Gibb MP, Mary Curnock Cook, Alison Alexander, Barnaby Lenon, Ben Fogle, Frank Gardner, Bardnardo’s Team and Mark Mortimer.  Key areas covered during the conference included:

Parent survey

The results of the BSA’s biggest survey for parents, involving 85 independent and state boarding schools and over 5,000 parents. A full report will be released to members in coming weeks.

BEAM marketing project launch

A £200,000 investment from BSA reserves to promote independent and state boarding to UK parents next year. This initiative is called the BEAM project and will include a series of events across the UK, a co-ordinated advertising and PR campaign targeting national, local and digital media. We are also launching a boarding video and need your help. Please click here to watch our boarding video appeal.


The merger of SBSA and BSA from June 2016 and the launch of a range of specialist forums for state boarding, CPD and safeguarding over the next year.

Boarding School magazine

The re-launch of Boarding School magazine. Click here to read the summer issue. 

Stephen Winkley Boarding Achievement Award

Annual Conference Dinner took place at The Lowry Theatre.  During the drinks reception guests were entertained by the Rossall School Choir and following dinner Frank Gardner OBE, Marlborough Alumnus and BBC Security Correspondent.  The second presentation of the annual Stephen Winkley Boarding Award, kindly sponsored by iSAMS, went to Elena and Stephen Nichol from Wellesley House School in Kent. Click here to view the full story.  

Boarders for Barnardo's launch

The official launch of the BSA’s Boarders for Barnardo's partnership. The project aims to have children helping children and provide opportunities where BSA pupils can get involved, carry out social enterprise activities, gain work experience and make a difference. At the BSA Annual Conference for Heads in Manchester from 3-5 May delegates were challenged to get involved and pledge their support. 

Heads were challenged to be one of 50 schools to raise £1,500 for the charity by May 2017.  50 represents the BSA Golden Jubilee and £1,500 to represent the 150th anniversary of Barnardo’s.  Even if schools are unable to raise funds due to prior charitable commitments, members are encouraged to raise awareness and support the BSA events during National Boarding Week.

The following schools have already pledged to support in some way:

  • St Peter’s, York
  • Sexey’s School
  • Radley College
  • Westonbirt School
  • The Downs Malvern
  • Farringtons School
  • King Edward’s Witley
  • Sibford School
  • Rishworth School
  • Monmouth School
  • St Catherine’s, Bramley
  • St John’s College Southsea
  • Summer Fields, Oxford
  • Leighton Park School
  • Sigtunaskolan, Sweden
  • Horris Hill
  • Stamford School
  • Tudor Hall
  • Bruton School for Girls
  • Badminton School
  • Burgess Hill, West Sussex
  • Queen Ethelburgas, York
  • More House School, Farnham
  • All Hallows, Somerset
  • Oundle
  • Lincoln Minster
  • Burgess Hill
  • Talbot Heath, Dorset
  • Old Swinford Hospital

Exhibitors and sponsors

Thank you to all our exhibitors and sponsors for supporting our conference.  Special thanks to Barlow Robbins and Llewellyn education for sponsoring the conference dinner, R M Education for sponsoring the new and retiring heads’ drinks reception, Sodexo for the Tuesday evening drinks reception and iSAMS for sponsoring the Stephen Winkley Boarding Achievement Award.  

Exhibitors: Reach Boarding School System, Anthony Millard Consulting Ltd, BMD Architects, Witley Jones Furniture Ltd, John Lewis For Business, Royal National Children’s Foundation, Synergia Coaching Limited, Harris Hill, Double First, Sodexo, Stevensons, Bridgeu, Blue Max Banner Limited, Inspiring Learning (T/A Equity & Kingswood), iSAMS, C H Q Group, Soundbitelearning/ Gcsepod, Barnardo's, Trybooking.Co.Uk, Barlow Robbins, Marsh Insurance Brokers, Boardingware International Ltd, Linden Boarding School Tours, Tempest Photography, School Colour, RM Education, Gresham Books, Gillman & Soame, Llewellyn Education, Schoolblazer Ltd, Interactive Schools, SIMS Independent, Barnsley Hewett & Mallinson, School Website and Simply Boarding.


Nick Gibb MP Speech

Can I start by saying thank you for inviting me to join the Boarding Schools' Association Conference this morning, and my apologies that it has to be via video link.

Last month I returned from a visit to China, where I was learning more about their remarkably successful ‘mastery’ approach to mathematics teaching. Many things struck me whilst I was visiting their classrooms, such as the way in which they value, refine and perfect school curriculum and resources, and the precise nature of their teaching methods, where pupil understanding is never left to chance.

Another point that struck me whilst talking to Chinese teachers was the high esteem in which they hold our best state and independent schools. I am sure many here will have been involved in projects that are taking place in the Far East, where they are seeking to learn from the rounded education offered by English schools.

And well they should. This country is home to some of the best schools in the world, many of which are members of this organisation. These schools are respected globally for their ability to imbue in pupils a love of knowledge and a curiosity about the world, but also the sort of character traits that are needed to succeed in later life – determination, hard work, good manners, and the ability to work as part of a team. 

It is these two characteristics – academic rigour and positive character formation – that combined encapsulate the educational vision we have for this country’s schools. There is no replacement for setting high academic expectations for all of our pupils, irrespective of birth or background. But we all know that education is about more than this, and that schools should also nurture the character of children through extracurricular activities and a strong pastoral system.

Their ability to fulfil both parts of this vision has given England’s boarding schools a long and distinguished history throughout the United Kingdom, and increasingly across the world. And this history crosses both the independent and the state sector. England has 43 state boarding schools, some of which are among the highest performing schools in the country. Together they educate 5,000 boarders.

And the state boarding sector in England is at an exciting point in its development. The government’s free school policy began in 2010, to allow parents, teachers or charitable groups to set up new schools. Currently, there are over 300 free schools in operation, which will create over 153,000 new school places once at capacity. One of the projects about which I am most excited is a state boarding school.

Holyport College is a state boarding school in Berkshire which is sponsored by Eton College and was opened by the Queen, no less, in 2014. With access to many of the facilities but more importantly the centuries of knowledge and experience of Eton College, the foundation of Holyport College is a promising sign of a new era of collaboration between the state and independent sectors in this country.

And so too is the proposed Boarding Partnerships Information Service. The Service will be part funded by the Department for Education to provide information for local authorities about the opportunities that exist for vulnerable young people to be placed in boarding schools. And I am delighted that the Boarding Schools' Association is taking such a significant role in funding and developing this project.

This partnership seeks to revive the long tradition that used to exist in this country of large numbers of children in need attending state and independent boarding schools with the fees paid by their local authority. The number of children now involved in such an arrangement is a fraction of what it once was. We believe that boarding provision has much more to offer our most needy children.

The Information Service will give children’s services professionals clear and practical information about boarding school provision as a routine option for vulnerable children. 

A wealth of individual stories exist which pay testament to the benefits that this can have, not least a forerunner of mine as a Minister at the Department for Education, Lord Adonis. Anyone interested in education in this country should read his account of the birth of the academies policy in his book Education, Education, Education.

In it, Lord Adonis movingly recounts his gratitude for being taken out of a council care home aged 11, where he had been since the age of three, and awarded a local authority grant to attend a boarding school in Oxfordshire. With clear academic expectations and strong school ethos, this school offered him the stability and care that he needed to go onto a career as a historian, journalist, and then politician.

Of course, anecdote is not the basis of modern policy making: evidence is. And that is why the Department for Education is also helping to fund forty boarding school places as part of a research project being undertaken with Buttle UK, the Royal National Children’s Foundation and the Education Endowment Foundation, to look at the impact of boarding on children who are in need. I look forward to hearing the outcome.

In the UK, independent boarding schools serve 75,000 students, including more than 20,000 from over 100 countries overseas. They generate more than £1.5 billion a year for the British economy, and employ thousands of dedicated and specialised professionals in all areas of academic and extra-curricular school life.

Parents clearly value these institutions for a wealth of different features: activities such as sport, drama and music; a clear articulated school ethos and expectation of pupil conduct; and a tradition of encouraging pupils to surpass their own expectations of themselves.

But we should not neglect, or in some cases, disparage the academic core that lies at the heart of all excellent schools. When the Sutton Trust routinely releases data which demonstrates the dominance of independently, often boarding school, educated pupils in public life, there can be a temptation to assume that the advantage of such schools is all gained through outward bound trips and playing hockey in the rain.

We neglect too readily the cultural literacy, and powerful knowledge that pupils at good schools gain through a core academic curriculum. This is an invaluable inheritance for any child, and central to a good education.

Many parents of pupils at independent schools would take it as assumed that their child should study English, Maths, the sciences, a language, and either history or geography at GCSE. But nationwide, the number of pupils in state funded schools achieving above a C in all such subjects is just 24%. And that figure is up from 16% in 2012, demonstrating the impact that has already occurred due to our English Baccalaureate policy, which encourages more pupils to enter an academic core of subjects at GCSE.

In addition, we are introducing more rigorous new tests at primary school. This has led to the claim that English pupils are the ‘most over tested in the world’, a claim which any inspection of the international evidence shows is unfounded. Based on international comparisons the frequency and breadth of national testing in this country is about normal, and there are many countries with a higher number of state mandated tests.

And tests at the end of primary school are absolutely imperative in ensuring that all pupils are equipped with the numeracy and literacy which will enable them to thrive at secondary school. This is not currently the case. In countries such as Korea and Singapore, the proportion of functionally literate and numerate pupils aged fifteen is over 90 percent, according to the 2012 PISA survey. But in England, only 82 percent of pupils are functionally literate aged fifteen, and only 77 percent are functionally numerate.

In fact, according to the 2013 OECD Adult Skills Survey, England is the only country of all 24 jurisdictions that took part, where the literacy and numeracy of 16-24 year olds is not better than that amongst 55-65 year olds. In all other participating countries, generational improvement in basic skills was a given, but not England.

For any government, the path of least resistance would of course be to let the sleeping dog of school underperformance lie. But this government is committed to the belief that all children, if taught well, can achieve. And I am sure that this commitment to the importance of academic attainment is something that we at the Department, and the Boarding Schools Association, share.

So, let me end by saying thank you for all the work that you are doing to help the Department in its commitment to improving education standards and provision for vulnerable children across the country.

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