The value of a British education


The Independent Schools Council in its 2014 census found that there are 24,391 non-British pupils with parents living overseas who are currently enrolled in ISC British Schools.  In terms of exporting our schools overseas, the market for British education abroad continues to explode, with new school franchises of UK flagship schools opening at a rapid rate across different international markets such as Europe, China, the UAE, South America and in the Asia/ Pacific region. In the UK, independent education has a significant impact on the economy, contributing £9.5 billion to gross added value (GVA) in Britain and supporting 227,000 jobs across Britain.

On the world stage, UK independent schools are widely regarded as among the best, with the most historic British schools such as Eton remaining highly sought after by parents across the world. Mr Edward Rees, Headmaster of a leading London day school, comments: “I think [the value of a British education] is still respected and valued, borne out by the continued interest from abroad. The independent prep curriculum tends to be broad and academically rigorous, with a necessary emphasis upon traditional values and the social development of the child”.

The challenge for all British schools is to capture what it is to be British and preserve this at the heart of the school identity. Yet school heads and governors also are aware that they need to move with the times and the economic, cultural and political circumstances in which they find themselves. They are aware of the education market for parents other than those who are British and the needs of globally mobile families.

So what is it that attracts international parents to a British independent education for their children?

Amongst other factors, it is the offer of first class facilities, a learning culture steeped in history and tradition, impressive curricular and extra-curricular opportunities and an alumni network that endures long after a child’s exit from the school.

“There is a noticeable increase in international parents desiring a British independent education for their children”, Philip Kaye, Head of Private Client Services at Salamanca Group comments. “We support many high net worth clients relocating to the UK with dedicated advice, attention and services, from immigration advice to property sourcing and personal security. Yet it is clear that their children lie at the core of their decisions and our education advice is widely sought and highly valued.”

For domestic parents in the UK, the changing intake of schools to include international pupils may be cause for consideration about not only the positive impact, but also the potential for the quintessential ‘British’ culture and identity of UK schools to become diluted. Magoo Giles, Head of Knightsbridge School comments: “when I set up the school in 2006 I knew that the make-up of the school would be very multicultural but I also knew that many people liked the all-rounded approach of the British system. As a result I created a code of conduct for everyone that would/could cross boundaries and would give some basic rules for global citizens that should maintain harmony and connect people”.

For UK nationals moving abroad, there is an array of factors to take into consideration, and core to these is the protection and wellbeing of the family.  Education should be carefully considered, in particular when searching for an excellent British education abroad. David Hanson, Chief Executive of IAPS (Independent Association of Prep Schools) has the following words of advice: “this country is renowned for having the best independent schools in the world and hundreds of ‘British’ schools are opening every year across the globe as a result. These schools are of varying quality, however, and parents must be vigilant when looking around a school to ask lots of questions and check what accreditations the school holds, such as membership of a schools’ association like IAPS.”

The value of a British education, whether you are a UK parent or an international parent remains the same: it is the opportunities that come with your child belonging to a community that is inextricably linked and the doors that this can open at tertiary and career level. It is also the ability to have your child schooled in one of the most historic and yet innovative education systems in the world, adding exponential value to a child’s future life chances.

Tips for parents when looking for a British education:

  • consider what’s truly on offer at education fairs/ exhibitions in terms of which schools are actually represented- these events may offer an initial reference point for some of the most renowned UK schools but your own research, along with school visits, will reveal which particular school/s are the best fit for your child;
  • consider engaging an education consultant, particularly if you are moving to the UK to help orientate you with school options and with helping you to objectively appraise each school; and
  • keep abreast of changes to the UK curriculum and how this will impact what your child will study and when.

Gabrielle Villani is Head of Education Services at Salamanca Group and specialises in providing education consultancy for parents and businesses.

This article was published in Exclusive and Smallish, September 2014.