VAT on Independent School Fees: It’s time to elevate Development leadership

The proposed VAT on independent school fees is dominating discussions among governors, school leaders, and educators. This political landscape shift is forcing schools to consider both their strategic planning and institutional survival. It’s the ideal catalyst to profoundly reconsider your leadership priorities and the strategic allocation of time to development. And in turn, how you hire, retain and support the leaders in these positions. 

With a 15-year career in Development, I’ve seen the transformation within educational institutions. The trend now is a positive one. Skilled individuals are entering the sector, replacing the practice of appointing Development Directors with minimal experience from within. The emphasis is now on… 

  • demanding expertise 
  • having a proven track record 
  • and demonstrating the ability to contribute to the strategic, whole-school vision 

…which in turn should be reciprocated towards development activities.  

This shift also highlights the need for schools to set higher standards when hiring crucial roles. A successful track record is critical when hiring Development Directors, but schools should also understand the collaborative and strategic nature of securing philanthropic income. Many schools recognise the importance of these principles, but there can be challenges in implementing what is truly needed. Wholehearted support should be extended to the development function, with an understanding that their success should not be shouldered by the department alone but seen as a collaborative effort involving the entire institution.  

The imposition of VAT on Independent School fees underscores the critical importance of strategic decisions made by governing bodies. This is not least because of the increase in teacher’s pension contributions, which is also on the horizon. The current landscape demands a more focused, strategic, results-driven approach. This is needed to tackle the challenges posed. Governing bodies must be ever more discerning in their appointments. They should select professionals equipped with the expertise needed to navigate this intricate landscape. Additionally, they should actively seek out the knowledge necessary to understand what it takes to choose the right candidate. This is essential for a thorough and informed selection process.  

Many schools, in their VAT debate, are carefully considering how much to pass on to fee payers. This number varies greatly between organisations.  This decision places a significant responsibility on schools to support pressures in other areas. The commitment of governing bodies to make informed and forward-thinking decisions will shape the destiny of independent schools, influencing whether the future holds prosperity or uncertainty.  

Independent school boards and governing bodies need to recognise the evolving demands in leadership and shape their recruitment and onboarding processes to suit. After all, it has school-wide ramifications.  

When recruiting for crucial roles, I recommend: 

  • revisiting and updating job descriptions 
  • Ensuring lead Development roles are a central part of school leadership 
  • prioritising candidates with the skills, expertise and strategic vision to navigate change  
  • ensuring there is active support post-recruitment 

Moreover, schools must recognise the imperative of attracting the right talent and aligning it with appropriate remuneration.  

Whilst this may seem an impossible task, it is not one to shy away from.  Demands should be high and only the best candidates appointed.  

If you’d like to discuss the nuances of Development recruitment further, please contact me at 

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