Sign up

Have some pie!

UK boarding schools feel the pinch of sterling’s global strength

Despite the strong performance of British boarding schools historically, providers are concerned about the affordability of boarding schools due to the strength of the pound in key markets.

Representatives from 79 schools and 89 agencies attended the workshop. Photo: The PIE News

Mainland China is the sector’s largest source country, with 5,683 students studying at boarding schools in the UK

The growing presence of one year foundation courses that prepare for university are also creating competitive tradition conditions, according to providers at the British Boarding Schools Workshop last week.

“People have to work really hard to recruit every single boarder”

The strength of the pound has been accentuated by the devaluation of certain currencies in significant source markets including the rouble in Russia and the naira in Nigeria.

“I think it’s tough times, people have to work really hard to recruit every single boarder,” Suzanne Rowse, director of the British Boarding School Workshop, told The PIE News.

However, she added: “I think people are reasonably positive; markets change all the time. We’ve got two or three of our key markets going through tough times, but in a sense, because schools aim to have diversity in their boarding community, they’re working with many different markets so that actually spreads the risk.”

Aaron Lennon, headmaster at Beechwood Sacred Heart School in Kent, told The PIE News that while his school was not necessarily affected by the rouble crash, he warned against the over-reliance on any one market.

“Schools have really got to look at their fee structures carefully because they’re pricing out UK people interested in independent education,” he said.

“From the international end, keep an eye on what’s happening in the market.”

The high level of deposits which can reach £10,000 at some schools, could also deflect international students away from British boarding schools, according to Rowse.

“If you add that into the fees of boarding, and you’ve got flights and you’ve got guardianship fees, that then becomes a very expensive package on top of £30,000 a year boarding fees,” she said.

Other routes to university, including one year pre-GCSE (16 yrs) and A-Level programmes (18 yrs), could offer more attractive price points to students.

“Boarding is only one pathway to an ultimate goal,” Rowse warns. “Whether that’s university or a short-term experience, so we cannot be complacent to think we are the only route.”

“You’ve got to diversify. If you don’t you could be in a lot of trouble”

Joe Li, managing director at Rise Smart Overseas Education Centre in Hong Kong, recognises that these options can be a more appealing route into university, and some boarding schools are beginning to offer them as well.

“It can be quite a good move to incentivise the market,” he told The PIE News.

“There are so many pathways, the foundation pathway, the A-Level public colleges, they save money, save time,” he said.

“If a student wants to come straight into A-Level, they’re going to really have to hit the ground running and be very competent in their English levels,” commented Rowse. “So that could increase the demand for these one year courses.”

Mainland China is the sector’s largest source country, with 5,683 students studying at boarding schools in Britain.

Hong Kong is the sector’s second largest sender, with 4,785 student this year, according to the Independent Schools Council.

The ISC census also found that the council has 485 boarding schools in the UK.

Unlike struggles in the ELT sector, boarding schools have remained bouyant, despite the notable closure of St Bees in March, a boarding school located in Cumbria, founded over 400 years ago.

However, Rowse said that it is “likely to be a possibility” that the sector will see consolidation.

“You need good economies of scale to do international recruitment,” she said. “I think that schools who’ve got small boarding numbers, they might either stop boarding or there could be mergers in the future.”

Related articles

Still looking? Find by category:

Add your comment

5 Responses to UK boarding schools feel the pinch of sterling’s global strength

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Disclaimer: All user contributions posted on this site are those of the user ONLY and NOT those of The PIE Ltd or its associated trademarks, websites and services. The PIE Ltd does not necessarily endorse, support, sanction, encourage, verify or agree with any comments, opinions or statements or other content provided by users.

To receive The PIE Weekly with our top stories and insights, and other updates from us, please