The UK’s high mortality rate from Covid-19 is causing concern for parents from Asia, with many now unwilling to send their children to UK independent schools, according to the director of the British Boarding Schools Network.
"Schools around the world are facing issues with admissions as a result of visa application centres being closed"
Suzanne Rowse spoke to The PIE News as part of the PIE Perspectives video series about challenges around K-12.
She said that UK schools will have to work hard to reassure the families of potential students that their children will be kept safe.
“We have the highest number of deaths now in Europe”
Independent schools around the world are also facing issues with admissions as a result of visa application centres being closed- and parents are asking for flexible payment deadlines,” said Rowse.
“There’s a strong message coming from Asian markets that the way our government has handled Covid-19 and they feel we have been slower to respond than other countries.
“The fact that we have the highest number of deaths now in Europe and second across the world, I understand, they feel very uncertain about sending their children over to UK schools”
Rowse said it’s going to be something the sector will have to work very hard at in the coming months to reassure families.
“The agents are looking for the schools to reassure parents about what measures they are taking, or will be taking if we are able to start back in September,” she said.
There is still uncertainty around whether students will actually be able to reach their schools according to Caroline Nixon, general secretary of BAISIS – something that would cause schools serious financial problems.
“Most independent schools are doing a fantastic job of doing online teaching for both UK and international students, but they can’t charge full fees for that online tuition,” she said.
Nixon explained that schools are “suffering badly” because they are still paying their teachers, but they are not able to get their fee income.
“That will also carry on into September, because even if schools are open by then and can take back UK children they won’t necessarily get their boarders back, because of the problems at the moment with visa offices around the world not being open.
“What that means is that admissions offices can’t offer places and visas can’t be issued to international students,” she added.
UK schools are not the only ones affected by uncertainty around mobility, as prospective parents looking at institutions in Canada are requesting financial reassurances before they enrol their children.
“Members are fielding many questions from agents and students that are trying to look ahead to the future… many are asking for very flexible payment deadlines, [and] very flexible refund policies,” said Bonnie McKie, executive director of the Canadian Association of Public Schools – International.
“Of course there is still significant interest in students wanting to study in Canada, hopefully from September.
“But they want some reassurance that should that not be possible for whatever reason, that there will be some flexibility and understanding and there won’t be any significant [financial] loss as a result of that decision,” she said.
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