Elaine, you're the Founder of Winter's International School Finder. What services does the site provide, and what drove you to set it up?
Winter’s matches students with English speaking International schools. When setting up the Sherborne School in Doha, Qatar I held focus groups with expat parents who shared their frustration with the process of finding school places for their children. The web seemed to be an obvious answer to their needs.Tell us about a typical day in your role – how do you go about managing a directory like Winter's International School Finder?
Sitting in the sales and operations office encouraging and informing my team. We have 8 full time members of staff and we’re based on the beautiful Fonthill Estate near Salisbury. I also travel a lot, visiting international schools and speaking at conferences such as ECIS in Rome or IPSEF Asia in Kuala Lumpur.
You've worked in international education for a long time – what was it that first drew you to this field?
Chance! I had always been a business development consultant based in London when I was approached by Sherborne School to look at their marketing. Whilst there, the opportunity of another school in Qatar came up and they asked me to be the Project Director.
In your experience, what are the benefits of international schools for expat children?
A modern education and a global view. I absolutely believe that an international education prepares children for the world that they are going into rather than the world that we came from. That is exactly as it should be.
What challenges do expat families face when choosing an educational institution for their children, and how does Winter's International School Finder address these?
Whilst there are lots of individual school websites, there is no one central source of information. Winter’s compares a child’s information against a school profile and tells the parent the most relevant schools in their given location. It is also rich in content that informs the parents about international schools.
In your opinion, which territories should expats be looking at in terms of growth in education? What changes can we expect to see in international education over the next few years?
More international schools especially in the Gulf and China/Far East. Perhaps more school groups such as Nord Anglia as their collective buying power in areas, such as marketing, allows them to be at the forefront of digital development. Their buying power online will always be above a single school.
Do you have any advice for schools who are considering a launch into a new territory?
Don’t be flattered by a possible sponsor. Do detailed due diligence and use a lawyer who has been involved in these sort of deals before. It may seem expensive but it will be worth it in the end. Oh, and the first school is always the worst! The ones that follow will benefit from the hard earned experience already undertaken.
Finally, when you're not working, what do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
I relax by cooking. I had a sabbatical before I joined Sherborne and became an apprentice butcher for 7 months. I loved it and my new found knowledge of fish and meat has definitely made me a better cook.
Elaine Stallard is the Founder of Winter’s International School Finder, a digital directory allowing expat parents to search for international schools for their children and providing schools the opportunity to showcase their credentials to parents across the world.