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Trends in international primary and secondary education

Primary and secondary education providers in the UK have varying exposure to international matters: some independent schools have a small percentage of overseas students, whereas the traditional high quality UK independent, fee-charging schools have a long history of recruiting non-EU domiciled overseas students to study in the UK, and this pattern has accelerated during the past decade. Immigration issues including more stringent UK visa restrictions continue to be a cause of concern but do not seem to have stemmed the inflow of international pupils.

Other schools are set up in one country under the sponsorship or franchise of a prestigious foreign schools group; they often operate in the same way as other schools in that country (subject to the overall group ethos of the parent), but their foreign ‘parent’ group will have faced a raft of international legal issues when going through the establishment process and ongoing group governance arrangements.

Finally there are the burgeoning “international schools”, British or U.S. independent schools which operate worldwide, large and small, some primary, some secondary and others all-through. As far as the “British” or “International” designations are concerned, they are very elastic when applied to schools overseas: many do not follow the English national curriculum, others adopt elements of the English curriculum to create a bilingual school, whereas most teach a curriculum which uses some elements of the national curriculum or teach for recognised UK examinations such as key stage tests, GCSE or A-levels. Just like UK universities and colleges, high performing UK independent schools (and possibly some academy chains) are looking to increase their international activities by branching out to those regions of the world which show a huge potential for growth and an unmet demand for UK high quality education, especially South Asia and the Middle East.

The success of the “for profit” international schools on the global stage should also be noted, in particular where they operate in many different countries and provide access to all socio-economic classes.

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Glynne Stanfield, Partner (UK)

  • Head of UK Governance and External Relations practice and International Education practice
  • +44 207 919 0977
  • E-mail Glynne Stanfield
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