Category: International schools

The challenges of providing high quality pastoral care in boarding schools

“The UK’s pastoral care of international students is widely regarded overseas as being one of the major strengths of the UK boarding school… however there are concerns that loopholes still do exist”

The UK’s boarding school system is world class, and attracts students from around the world, writes UK Education Guide director and co-founder, Pat Moores. But with concerns over the lack of agreed guardianship structures, could the reputation be under threat?

The UK’s pastoral care of international students is widely regarded overseas as being one of the major strengths of the UK boarding school system and one that schools and guardians work hard to maintain.

“UK schools are distinctive in the strength of their commitment to pastoral care – they care about this almost as much as they do about academic matters. We hear that it is this ‘holistic’ approach that is so appreciated by overseas families,” said Diana Stewart Brown, Head of Operations at Keystone Tutors Singapore.

However, there are concerns that certain loopholes still do exist and this then relies on the professionalism and conscientiousness of both schools and guardians to make sure, on a case by case basis, all the gaps are filled.

The legal position according to Matthew Burgess from solicitors Veale Wasbrough Vizard is that the school never loses the overall ‘duty of care’ in the case of full time boarding pupils and in the case of day students the ‘duty of care’ rests more heavily on the guardian as the child is effectively being privately fostered and, if under 16, the family the child is living with has to be registered with social services as a foster family.

“As there is no legally defined guardian role, the provision of non-accredited services is open to interpretation”

There is a recognition that getting pastoral support right, from the very moment a child arrives in the UK, can set the tone for a child’s future happiness. Excellent continuity of communication between admissions teams, houseparents, parents and guardians is critical from day one; “the most successful handover of information from admissions to boarding staff is always achieved through conversation as well as information on file,” said Gareth Collier, principal of Cardiff Sixth Form College.

Regarding ongoing care, there seems to be some consensus from schools where challenges still exist.

“The biggest loophole is the approach that we have to school holidays. Houseparents are often the key pastoral lead in most schools but when the holidays come, and these hard working staff take a well-deserved break, [and] there is little school back up to provide often essential information to parents, students and guardians,” adds Gareth Collier.

“Strong partnerships between schools and guardians are essential to providing excellent care to each young person studying in the UK”

During holiday and exeat weekends when schools close, the role of the guardian therefore becomes even more critical. However, as Caroline Nixon, general secretary of BAISIS, pointed out: “currently neither EU nor non-EU students of any age legally have to have a guardian, although BAISIS believes it is best practice for those under 18”.

Additionally, ensuring high quality guardianship provision is a significant challenge as there is no legal framework as to what services a guardian must provide and their role also depends on the pastoral provision of each individual school.

“The guardian role can cover everything from arranging dental appointments, registering with a doctor to dealing with a child who is potentially about to be excluded from school,” said Julia Evans, Director of Cambridge Guardian Angels.

For this reason, BAISIS has recently created a template for an agreement between individual BAISIS schools and their students’ guardians which outlines the school’s expectations of a guardian’s responsibilities.

AEGIS, The Association for the Education and Guardianship of International Students, has also gone a long way to adding structure to the guardianship role. AEGIS accredits UK guardianship organisations through a rigorous inspection process and Yasemin Wigglesworth, executive officer at AEGIS, said: “more schools are now insisting that an international student has an AEGIS accredited guardian or close family member in the UK as a condition of admission.”

Currently there are approximately 27,000 International students in the UK aged 18 and under with parents living abroad, but only around 5,000 are in the care of AEGIS registered guardians. This is not to suggest that the care provided by non-AEGIS members is sub-standard but, as there is no legally defined guardian role, the provision of non-accredited services is open to interpretation by each provider and many of these students will not have a guardian at all.

As acknowledged, high quality pastoral care is something that sets UK education providers ahead of international competitors but, in the absence of legal frameworks, strong partnerships between schools and guardians are essential to both maintaining this competitive advantage and providing excellent care to each young person studying in the UK.

Emerging markets turn a keen eye to international schools

“With such huge demand from expat and local parents alike, it’s unlikely we’ll see this growth decrease any time soon”

Carolyn Savage, Head of International Education at Winter’s International School Finder, weighs in on why it is that so many parents in emerging economies are keen to send their children to an international school.

The international schools sector has been growing rapidly in recent years, and with increased globalisation this trend shows no signs of slowing down. Successful British schools are opening more sister campuses overseas to fulfil the surging demand for English education. This demand has been particularly intense in territories such as China and Saudi Arabia, where local parents are becoming increasingly keen to join the expatriate community and benefit from the advantages an international school education can offer.
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As Head of International Education at Winter’s International School Finder, Carolyn is passionate about education and has spent 15 years working with children from all around the world. She is a third culture kid, whose understanding of the changing face of international education runs deep and she’s keen to help parents find the right schools for their children.

No end in sight for the UK’s Indian slump

“Unless there is a significant shift in UK visa policy or a re-introduction of Post Study Work, it is hard to see how the UK can recover its share of Indian students”

Aaron Porter, director of insights at Hotcourses, delves into the data…

Prime Minister Theresa May finished her first major international visit to India last week, and higher education was high on the agenda for the bilateral talks. Accompanied by Universities Minister Jo Johnson and a number of UK vice chancellors, attempts will surely have been made to arrest the slump in demand from Indian students looking at UK universities. Indian Premier Narandra Modi certainly raised the importance of ensuring the UK was both open and welcoming for Indian students.
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Ensuring the health and emotional wellbeing of international students

Mary Memarzia, Director of Student Services at Bellerbys Cambridge, reflects on how institutions can help to care for their international students’ mental health.

A recent report by YouGov states that one in four students in Britain suffer from mental health problems, including anxiety and depression. A major source of stress is their studies, with 71% of those surveyed saying that their university workload is their most pressing concern. 39% are worried about finding a job after university and 35% are concerned about their families.
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International schools needn’t panic over the oil & gas slump

“There’s no need to panic; there is a plethora of up-and-coming industries within these territories that is drawing in new expat professionals and filling the gaps”

Carolyn Savage, Head of International Education at Winter’s International School Finder, reassures international schools in the wake of the global oil & gas slump that is being felt in the education sector.

The recent slowdown of the oil & gas industry had an inevitable ripple effect on pupil enrolment at international schools. The International School Consultancy (ISC) predicted a drop of around 1-2% in enrolments in The Middle East this term, as well as lower enrolment rates in Asia-Pacific.

Some schools have seen little or no slowdown in the number of parents registering an interest, while others have experienced a larger reduction in enrolment, because they cater more specifically for families involved in the oil and gas industry.
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As Head of International Education at Winter’s International School Finder, Carolyn is passionate about education and has spent 15 years working with children from all around the world. She is a third culture kid, whose understanding of the changing face of international education runs deep and she’s keen to help parents find the right schools for their children.

Fairer Home Office regulations for smaller institutions

“The political imperative to tighten the numbers of immigrants entering the country must be balanced against the need for a fair system for all institutions”

In the UK, concerns have been brewing for some time that strict Home Office regulations – including the cap on the number of visa refusals institutions are permitted to keep operating – may be disproportionately harming smaller institutions, writes Alex Bols, deputy chief executive of GuildHE. What can be done to remedy the situation?

The UK has a world-class higher education system, the strength of which is – at least in part – the result of the huge diversity of universities, of all sizes and specialisms.

Many students deliberately choose to study in a smaller or more specialist institution because of the world-class facilities as well as the safer and more personalised experience that they will receive and these opportunities should be available to the many international students wanting to study in the UK.
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Alex Bols is Deputy Chief Executive of GuildHE – one of the recognised representative bodies for UK higher education. In addition to working in UK higher education he was also Secretary General of the European Students’ Union.

The frustration of international school marketing for schools and parents

Elaine Stallard, Founder and CEO of Winter’s International School Finder, a comprehensive digital directory of English-speaking schools across the world, writes about what international schools should be looking out for when marketing themselves to prospective students and their parents. 

Over the past decade, there has been a 320% increase in the number of international schools across the world. Recent figures from the International School Consultancy reveal there to be more than 8,000 English-medium international schools across the world, teaching a total of 4.26 million students.
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International schools bet on Myanmar’s future

“Foreign investment has not only begun to reshape the city as cranes swing across the skyline, but also created increased demand from expat and Myanmar families who want to educate their children to an international standard”

Piers Lloyd, has worked in international education in Myanmar for the past two years, mostly recently working in international schools to improve enrolment. Here he writes for The PIE Blog about the shifting market.

The international school market in Myanmar is expanding as international education providers enter the market, betting on a positive outcome for this year’s election.

In the past decade, the number of international schools has risen from one or two shady institutions to the world’s leading international schools looking to set up on all corners of Yangon, Myanmar’s commercial capital.

The growth reflects the influx of international trade to Myanmar in response to a wave of economic and political reforms that have helped bring an end to most international sanctions.

Foreign investment has not only begun to reshape the city as cranes swing across the skyline, but also created increased demand from expat and Myanmar families who want to educate their children to an international standard.

Decades of isolation have crippled Myanmar’s education system. State schools and universities crumble with neglect and a lack of funding, meaning that parents with high aspirations for their children have to turn to private education.

And as more and more foreigners come to live and work in the country, the private education sector has responded to meet demand.

“And as more and more foreigners come to live and work in the country, the private education sector has responded to meet demand”

Until recently the residents in one of the new affluent housing developments in the neighbourhood of Hlaing Thayar, west Yangon, had only one option outside of the state education system.

It was a school called Early Years Centre, which claimed to offer international standard education but in fact fell far short of standards usually associated with the industry.

Now, the site of that school has been taken over by Pun Hlaing International School, which uses the English National Curriculum and is managed by Dulwich College International, a large international education provider advised by Dulwich College in London.

“An increase in quality International Schools is a key indicator that a city is open for business with the international community,” said Derek Llewellyn, headmaster of Pun Hlaing International School.

“In 15 years the change to an area like Hlaing Thayar has been tremendous, and the development will continue at this pace now that there is provision for the next generation of expat and Myanmar children.”

Dulwich College International, which already has a network of international schools across Asia, is constructing another purpose-built International School in a different housing development to the South-East of the city.

The arrival of these international schools is generally welcomed by the local population, but there is a worry that some of the more prestigious schools have little engagement with the local community.

“The arrival of these international schools is generally welcomed by the local population, but there is a worry that some have little engagement with the local community”

“It is very important international schools offer Myanmar language, culture and history classes,” said one international school parent, who was otherwise happy with the growing number of options for quality education.

In the past year, competing international school providers to set up in the city include The British Schools Foundation, adding to its roster of more than 10 schools worldwide, and EtonHouse International Education Group, a provider and franchisor of private schools based out of Singapore.

Not everyone is confident about the future of Myanmar. From 2014, Harrow International Management services managed a school in Yangon through the long-established Harrow School in Bangkok. They ceased operations and quietly withdrew from Myanmar this year, amicably severing ties with their local partner.

The providers that have chosen to continue operations in the city will compete with a selection of independent International schools, ranging in facilities and cost, and the quality of education they provide. One thing the majority do have in common though; they were not operating in the city over 10 years ago.