This year’s Independent Schools’ Council Census showed an increase in pupils at independent schools, but a drop overall in numbers of students from overseas – which might be seen as surprising given the numbers of wealthy foreign families investing in London property.
‘We think that the drop is the result of schools being able to offer more scholarships and bursaries to British children due to large donations from overseas parents,’ says Alexander Nikitch, owner and founder of Carfax Educational Consultants (CEC), a leading international education consultancy based in London. ‘Schools prefer to award places to local children because academically they are much better prepared by the preparatory schools for entrance tests and interviews than those from overseas.’
CEC believes that foreigners, rich or poor, stand a lower chance of being accepted by the top schools, because such schools select their pupils almost always on merit – rather than on parental bank balance. Top schools are very careful to ensure that foreign pupils integrate well into the school environment, and in order to achieve that, they aim to keep the numbers of foreign children low (around 10%).
Commenting on the reported increase in pupils at independent schools, Mr Nikitich says: ‘We have been spreading the word through the foreign media for a number of years about prep schools offering the best preparation for senior schools, and encouraging parents to consider sending their children to prep schools to optimise their chances of being accepted to a good senior school later on. Not only do they gain the necessary academic foundation, through Common Entrance, but they also get used to the teaching style of British schools, a problem-solving approach in most subjects, and in many cases a boarding lifestyle enriched by participation in numerous extra-curricular activities.’
The company has also noted that foreign pupils are getting younger with each year, as parents learn about early registration deadlines, pre-assessments and timely applications, as well as the benefits of sending their children to prep schools. CEC believes that this trend is likely to continue.