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Is it fish and chips on Fridays that makes a school British?

I’ve hugely enjoyed making many exciting new connections across the world of British schools and education globally. It’s amazing what a bit more time during a pandemic can achieve.

One of the things it’s raised my awareness of, is the exponential rise in the number of British schools all around the world since I founded The Independent Education Consultants 10 years ago. Both the British curriculum and British English are very much in demand globally. International schools teaching the British curriculum in English, British boarding schools opening satellite campuses overseas, as well as schools delivering a more international curriculum, with becoming bilingual in English being integral to the education ethos. No doubt, British education both in the UK and in schools overseas is well and truly one of Britain’s export success stories. All this paints a positive perspective on the future for our British education consultancy services post pandemic. It seems we’ll be celebrating our 10th Birthday in July after all.

We’re privileged to work with many expat British and international parents located around the world, all seeking expert advice on choosing the right British boarding or day school. Some are relocating or repatriating to the UK and some remaining overseas, while their children access British education via the extensive choice of British boarding schools in the UK.

Considering the global nature of our parent clients and their reasons for choosing a British education for their child, I’ve started to wonder, what makes a school British? Is it just the curriculum of GCSE and A levels, or are there certain extra factors that contribute to the outstanding reputation of British education around the world?

The traditional British curriculum of GCSE and A level are tried and tested as a successful pathway towards a place at a top University. However, many British schools both in the UK and overseas, now offer the IB Diploma in place of A levels in sixth form. These schools are equally successful in gaining places at top universities. Despite embracing a more international approach to curriculum, I’m certain they’d still call themselves British schools. This implies a British school is not just about the curriculum children follow, its about the ethos, values, and wider all-round education.

We live in a global world and children will undoubtedly need tolerance and understanding of cultural differences to thrive in their future careers. Attending a British international school either in the UK or overseas, where pupils are of many nationalities, is a great way to achieve this. But, is this a British education? To quote a parent whose children are now back at school in the UK after a stint at international school in France, ‘It’s way more than the curriculum and the language the teachers speak that defines the experience of going to a British boarding school. It’s fish and chips on a Friday and school trips to the museums that reinforce the history projects.’

British boarding schools in the UK keep a close eye on pupil numbers of each nationality, ensuring most pupils are British, complimented by a small number of children from many different countries around the world. Exceeding 20-25% international pupils in a British boarding school community is widely deemed to be undermining it’s British-ness. Especially in the opinion of local parents. On the flip side, British international schools tend to attract families of the nationality in the country where they’re based, who want a British education for their children without flying halfway across the world to access it in the UK. Some parents simply prefer to keep their children close to home. The result is a pupil community of mostly international families, with a small number of expat British children. Makes me wonder, does the lion’s share of the pupil body have to be British for the education to be British?

Learning English from native speaking teachers across all curriculum subjects is a key element of achieving fluency in English language. However, language learning in the classroom is only a small part of fluency. Using a language via total immersion at school, at home and when relaxing with friends, will undoubtedly achieve greater language fluency and understanding. Without a substantial number of native English speaking peers, teachers, and parents, is it possible to achieve the same level of competency in British English?

I also wonder if, an essential characteristic of a British school, is that it develops all-round potential via extensive opportunities to try new things and nurture talents in many areas, not just academic achievements. British boarding schools in the UK specialise in identifying and realising potential. That’s the British way! Focus on the individual, so all can find their true passion. Challenge and nurture in equal measure. Do British international schools overseas deliver the same approach?

The truth is the exponential increase in new British international schools overseas shows parents around the world are looking for the type of education they offer. However, there are crucial differences between a British education in the UK and a British education in a British school overseas. In my experience, parents need to understand this before making the right choice of school for their child and family.

We can help...

That’s where we come in as expert education consultants who can highlight the pros and cons of each option, assisting parents to make informed decisions with confidence.

To arrange a friendly conversation about how our team of expert education consultants can assist you with choosing the right British boarding or day school, please get in touch.

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