Lessons Learned: Establishing A Private School for Students with Special Needs [Podcast]

Philippa Fabbri

Philippa Fabbri

At InspirED, we believe the future for private schools lies in innovation to ensure they will not only survive but thrive. Create a program(s) that will be in high demand, that no one else is providing in your market, and do that exceedingly well. That’s what Philippa Fabbri did in Port Elizabeth, South Africa.

Philippa was teaching special education in South Africa when she decided to leave it for a while to study more about these students and their needs. While doing so, she offered remedial work for children from home but realized that 45 minutes a week wasn’t going to be enough to help her students catch up.

As they say in business “find a hole and fill it,” so in 2006, Philippa became the founder of Elsen Academy an independent, non-profit school for students “who have learning barriers such as dyslexia, ADHD, etc. as well as emotional and social barriers.” The school has grown to enroll 125 students in grades 1-12.

Not only does Elsen teach children classic classroom skills, but they also teach literacy, life skills, independent living skills, and entrepreneurial skills. Elsen has a vocational school that teaches students how to be a barista or other skills such as cooking, baking, growing food, etc. And if that wasn’t enough, Elsen has a cyber school to bring special education to remote locations.

Establishing a school from concept to creation is a huge undertaking, and Philippa demonstrated her teaching expertise as well as business savvy with this monumental endeavor. Listen to learn more.

Philippa Quoted

“I listened first to the InspirED podcast with Jeff Shields. There was nothing in that podcast that I couldn’t relate to, and now I have listened to every one of the podcasts.”

“I wanted to start a place where kids would want to come to school every day, where they would feel nurtured and accepted, heard and seen, and have fun in learning. It was important to me to take the pressure, anxiety and stress away. To create that space.”

“I learned I’m not a business person. I’m at teacher at heart. You’re dealing with a business, but you’re also dealing with emotions. Are we business or are we offering a service?”

“I’m seeing lots of parents looking for alternatives and lots of new kinds of schools are springing up left right and center in South Africa.”

“We’ve all been singing a similar song, but not singing the same song, so we’ll be working in 2019 on standardizing the way we talk about ourselves.”

What You’ll Learn

  • How running and InspirED are connected

  • How and why Philippa founded Elsen Academy

  • What not to take personally

  • How to market a new entity

  • How Elsen forged relationships to build word-of-mouth

  • How and what social media works for Elsen Academy

  • 15 scarce skills in South Africa

  • How the #NoLimitsToLearning Conference supports Elsen’s mission

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