When Families Leave
Some families will make the decision to leave prior to graduation and it is incumbent upon you as a school to understand why. How can your school move toward healthy change?
As school leaders, your passion for educating, nurturing, and guiding the next generation of disciples is what defines your day-to-day work. When a family leaves your school, it impacts you and the school. Beyond lost tuition revenue, the greater reality is that you lose the opportunity to serve that child, that family, to have your mission impact them, and to see your school’s vision bear fruit in their lives.
Nevertheless, some families will make the decision to leave prior to graduation and it is incumbent on you to understand why. Families will leave your school for many different reasons and the decision not to re-enroll is doubtful to be one that parents make lightly. Changing schools is a significant transition not only for the child(ren) but for the whole family. Beyond moving out of the area, the most common reason families give for leaving a school is affordability; they cannot afford the tuition. However, finances are often not the primary reason they are leaving. The issue of affordability is often used to avoid conflict or further discussion. The reasons for leaving often stem from disappointment or a lack of satisfaction with one or more aspects of the school that ultimately brings into question the value of the family’s investment in the school.
For a family who is wavering in their decision to stay at the school, an open, candid conversation may help them make the decision to stay at the school. However, once a family gives formal notice, it is vital to capture their school experiences and document their reasons for leaving. When a family chooses to leave your school, do you know the true motivations behind their decision?
This is where the exit interview survey comes in. It honours your departing families by giving them the opportunity to speak into their experiences and is a valuable resource that can serve as an assessment tool for growth, stimulating healthy change. It provides critical information on satisfaction levels, perceived strengths and weaknesses, and potentially critical issues. It will help you identify the deciding factors that move families to look elsewhere for their children’s education and the criteria they have for choosing their new school. Ultimately, it will assist you to capitalize on strengths, improve on weaknesses, and develop plans for healthy change by providing you with solid data gathered in a consistent manner. School leaders need to understand, evaluate, and address the themes that emerge from the exit interview in order to be proactive, not reactive, in retaining families for the long term.
The exit interview is also a key piece in marketing your school. If families leave on a negative note it can lead to damaging conversations in the community in which you are actively promoting your school. Conversely, providing the opportunity to share their school experience can build bridges, fostering positive relationships. As a result, the families are more likely to speak well of your school to others – even if the school may not have been a good fit for their children.
The exit interview can also provide validation that you are delivering what you promised when families first enrolled, that you are fulfilling your mission. It can furnish you with some wonderful stories to share with your community, stories that may kindle a deeper appreciation for the education your school is providing their children and ultimately strengthen their commitment to Christian education.
In summary, in order to understand the reasons for attrition and how you can improve your school to keep your current families enrolled, the completion of an exit survey needs to be a part of the withdrawal process. Just as we take great care with our admissions process to ensure families are dealt with fairly and honourably, we also need to provide care when a family decides to leave the school.
In light of this, and recognizing that many schools are not capturing important information from families who leave, SCSBC struck a task force to build an exit protocol for our member schools. This includes a withdrawal process that can be adapted to any size school and an exit interview survey that can be modified for use on many platforms. Many thanks to Chris Berghuis (Pacific Christian School), Clara Atagi (Surrey Christian School), Cyndy Loewen (Kelowna Christian School), and Savaya Hofsink (Vernon Christian School) for their insights into designing both the withdrawal process, flow chart, and exit survey template. Our next step is to conduct a test drive before rolling out the protocol to our schools. We look forward to sharing it with you in 2021.
SCSBC Director of Development