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International students in British boarding schools

Tim Aldiss from Enjoy Education says the squeeze on school places means competition is rising

Posted by Stephanie Broad | October 22, 2015 | International

Enjoy Education, international schools, school places, boarding schools, British schools

The boarding school is just as much a part of the quintessential view of Britain as green fields, fish and chips and ice cream at the seaside, and has been home to children from a host of different backgrounds, cultures, and countries for as long as they have existed.

While there has always been competition to enter these schools, there have always been adequate places and parents have been able to pick and choose the school most suited to their child and their budget. However, an increase in the number of parents, particularly the parents of international students, choosing British boarding schools it now means that it is the schools who have the pick of the best and brightest.

Raising standards

As parents and pupils jostle for the remaining places at the country's top boarding schools, the schools are put in a position where they can pick the best and brightest of the children. For some children, even those entering at the preparatory level, this means sitting several entrance exams and completing a personal interview before being accepted. The stress on both parents and children to 'get it right' is increasing, and so parental expectations of these schools. After all, if you have had to jump through hoops to enter the school you expect to be rewarded with a high standard of care and education.

Improving cultural awareness

The nature of boarding schools has changed very little over the years, and people's perception of them has changed even less. However, an increase in the number of international students is having a positive effect on the upper class British image of these schools. As pupils from varying backgrounds and cultures enter these schools and mix, the schools themselves need to become more culturally aware and sensitive to the differing needs of its pupils. Failure to do this, and to move with the times, can leave pupils feeling isolated and affect every aspect of the child's experience. In the days of social media, such feelings travel fast and can hit the headlines before the schools are even aware there is a problem.

Fees, funding and financial struggles

One of the reasons, other than quality of education, why the parents of international students often choose British boarding schools is that the academic scholarships run by many of the schools are also open to gifted children from outside the UK. The scholarship exams can be taken in the child's home country and gaining a scholarship to a UK boarding school can make a huge difference to that child's future. For those children who do not qualify for a scholarship, or miss out on bursaries, the financial burden on parents can be huge; average costs for a senior school aged child are £9,502 per term.

Despite this burden, numbers continue to grow, and so does pressure on schools to find space and on parents to gain available places for their children. It will be interesting to see how boarding schools, parents and children adapt to these changes.

Tim Aldiss writes on behalf of Enjoy Education, London private tuition consultants

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