Securing the Future
of the Dragon
“Why can’t professional people like me
afford an independent education anymore?”
This question is asked at every OD reunion
and it deserves a response.
The National Independent Schools’
Benchmarking Survey 2016 has benchmarked
fees in 720 separate schools. Since 2012,
fee increases averaged between 3% and 4%
in prep and senior schools. Since the early
2000s, school fees have grown by 60% while
earnings have only grown by just 30%.
What is driving these fee
Teachers’ pay is benchmarked. Staff are
paid competitive rates but by far the
most significant driver of higher costs in
independent schools is the pupil teacher
ratio. Recent changes in teachers’ pensions
and National Insurance payments have also
had a significant impact on costs.
Changing social, technological and
educational needs of the modern world mean
that all schools – state and independent
– have had to invest in technology and
appropriate facilities such as IT suites. Such
investment also has staffing implications.
What about schools’ capital
All well managed schools will have reserves
but, as you all know, income from interest
is minimal and the contribution from
investments – particularly in a school with
no large and well established endowment –
The Dragon has not entered the ‘arms race’
for ever grander facilities. Nevertheless, the
School’s facilities need to be upgraded and
maintained from time to time. The Governors
are working on a thirty year capital plan to
minimise costs and to provide facilities that
support children’s learning for the future.
How can the Dragon combat the
external pressures on fees and
also invest in its essential capital
It isn’t possible to turn back the clock. If we
ran the Dragon as it was 50 years ago we
would fail to meet almost all current statutory
obligations and be unable to prepare our
pupils for the technologically complex and
diverse society in which we now live.
Oxford-based ArchitectsBerman Guedes Stretton (BGS)
appointed to review and develop the
School’s building masterplan including
a new Music School, which remains the
School’s top building priority. BGS have
a reputation for delivering high quality
architecture and have won a number of
invited and open design competitions
and many awards, including the
RIBA National award, RIBA and
RICS Regional Awards and RIBA
Conservation and Sustainability Awards.
They were finalists for the Building
Design Education Architect of the Year
2013, and their recent projects in Oxford
include Wolfson College, Pembroke
College, Queen’s College and St Clare’s.
The Governors are currently
working on a capital projects masterplan
for the School for the short to medium
term. More details will be published
on the Dragon School Website
) and in future
editions of the OD magazine as soon as
plans are finalised.
Roger Ainsworth became the Chairman of Governors at the Dragon in April 2014.
Since October 2002, he has been Master of St Catherine’s College, Oxford, having been a
Fellow in Engineering of the College since 1985. Roger was an undergraduate apprentice
with Rolls-Royce Aero Engines in Derby, before attending Jesus College, Oxford as an
undergraduate and postgraduate, and obtaining a D.Phil in 1976.
All Governing bodies are keen to
control costs. The Dragon Governors
are no exception and they are taking a
rigorous approach to managing costs. This
coming Academic year a small fee increase
of 2%, half the average fee increase in
recent times, has been announced. There
will be little surplus, however, for future
How can the Dragon invest for the
future and keep its fee increases
to a minimum?
Part of the solution is an efficient, effective
Development Office with a long term vision.
We thank all those ODs who have
already contributed to the transformational
bursary fund or have helped to fund a
capital project, and we thank all our legators
who help to secure the long term future of
the School. If you wish to find out more
about the School’s fundraising, including
legacies, contact The Development Office.
Chairman of Governors