In my independent school consulting work I ask trustee and parent focus groups, "what makes your school distinctive or special?" Responses invariably include things like academic excellence, a nurturing learning environment, a caring close-knit community, a focus on the whole child, and a diverse offering of extra-curricular programs. I have yet to find the neighboring school that these parents and trustees are using for comparison to define their distinctive competitive advantages. You know, the school down the street with mediocre academics, a harsh learning environment, an uncaring and cold community, a focus on only part of the child, and limited extra-curricular programs. The truth is that nearly all independent schools have varying degrees of the positive elements noted above. These are shared characteristics, not competitive advantages.
Many independent schools are experiencing flat or declining enrollment in an educational marketplace disrupted by declining birthrates, increased competition, and pricing push-back. To thrive they need to develop and promote a true competitive advantage, a program or approach that goes beyond shared characteristics. Tew & Associates works with client schools to improve financial sustainability and build enrollment. One way we help create a competitive advantage is by positioning a school as the Wellbeing School.
A Wellbeing School creates an intentional community that enshrines wellbeing into the mission of the organization. It creates programs and processes that support the wellbeing of every stakeholder. We help schools connect existing programs and create micro courses and events that focus on fitness, nutrition, friendship, mindful meditation, financial literacy, and contribution to community. We also work to create wellbeing curriculum threads that can be embedded into existing academic courses.
For example, schools are uniquely positioned to move the needle toward healthier nutrition by embracing their role as a cultural hub for students and families. Healthy eating is a core pillar of wellness and overall wellbeing.
It turns out that good nutrition requires more than just the ability to afford fresh vegetables, fruits, and lean protein. A new working paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research shows that culture, as well as wealth, contributes to healthy eating. Intergenerational culture can cause poor food choices to persist even as individuals become more affluent. Wellbeing Schools stand out in the crowd by creating a culture of healthy eating and giving students the tools for vitality and longevity. Food service vendors like SAGE Dining Services can also be a great partner for improving nutrition awareness in schools.
Tew & Associates welcomes conversations with schools looking to improve their competitive edge by becoming a Wellbeing School.