The Paradox of the Private School Student


The student body in a private school, though the primary target of your attentions and time, contains paradoxically none of your customers.

Private school students are consumers but don't pay for the service they receive.

This is a multi-edged sword: the student is not putting in anything in exchange for the service and yet is the primary channel of communication back to the parent with whom he or she lives. Poor delivery or even failure to spot mild unethical or irresponsible activity on the school's part can lead to the fee-paying parent, seeing the result from the school daily, reacting explosively against the school.

In practice, of course, parents who do react noisily are in a particular group of parents who tend to react noisily to anything anyway. Most students just get on with it, and most parents are happy with the results. But it's worth keeping in mind that this customer/consumer dichotomy is pretty unique to the private education business. An independent school is the only place I can think of where customers pay thousands of pounds for someone else to deliver to their most precious asset - their children - where that asset is not only a living, breathing individual but also is delivered to over very long periods of time, up to 15 years in some cases.

And all with the state offering a highly-funded but free-to-user parallel service in every town in the land.

Quite a challenge.

It's something which seems to elude the awareness of most staff, resulting in assumptions that ‘the school will just keep on going' whic