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Kathy Crewe-Read, Bishop’s Stortford College

When she took charge of a boarding school in the middle of a pandemic, Kathy Crewe-Read understood that students, both domestic and international, are not just there to perform well academically – they are under her care. She chats to the PIE about the Bishop’s Stortford College’s growing international population.


Photo: Bishop's Stortford College

The institution's international summer school was labelled an “overwhelming success”

In a quiet corner around 30 minutes outside of London lies Bishop’s Stortford College. On the surface, it seems like a well-performing private institution, with the option to board and very much for local pupils to prosper.

This isn’t the case, according to its head, Kathy Crewe-Read. She tells The PIE that the international cohort at her school sets it apart from its competitors – and its efforts to continue recruiting internationally too.

“Around 50% of the international population is from the Far East; China, and Hong Kong. We’ve also got a good smattering of the whole of Europe – some Scandinavian, Italian, Spanish, Lithuanian – Eastern European countries too; even some from South America,” she notes.

Last year, her school was one of a large number in the UK to take on some Ukrainian students amid the tumultuous war in the region.

Crewe-Read explained that six were brought in, all staying with families in the local town – and all studying free of charge.

One agency the school works with also brought in one more through its own Eastern European Scholarship program – who is in boarding – and what’s more, all domestic and international boarders are fully integrated.

Crewe-Read tells The PIE she hadn’t seen such high levels of integration anywhere else – especially as the boarding houses all have day pupils allocated to them.

“It means that the day pupils and international borders particularly completely integrate because they’re all in the same space during the daytime; they’re integrated when they go to lessons, which means that the whole of the community benefits.

“The international boarders benefit from full integration – and the British pupils benefit from having a more diverse community. So it really works well. I hadn’t seen that at another school, and when I came here I thought, that’s masterful,” she says.

In terms of that integration, it runs all the way to how the students look to move on from the school. With a relatively new and completely separate careers division, international students are “well-looked after” just as the domestic students are, with many applying to continue their stay in the UK through university study.

“Last year a couple of students went to American universities – the year before we got one into an American university, but I think it’s about capacity.

“We have a new partnership with a school in South Korea”

“The careers department gave one-to-one support to every student through the UCAS process – and we’ve got 130 children in the sixth form each year. While there’s still the matter of capacity [getting students into university abroad], our process worked really well for us last year.”

The recruitment side for international students is extremely active. Crewe-Read champions its work with agents especially, with the team consistently attending events and fairs around the world – with the school’s sixth form head having recently joined a delegation to Nigeria, and its involvement in the Boarding Schools’ Association.

“We have a new partnership with a school in South Korea that sends some year seven students each year. And we also have an Argentinean group who go to our summer school,” she says.

The international summer school, which launched last year under the oversight of the school’s head of international relations, was labelled an “overwhelming success” with over 300 students in attendance – and something the school hopes to continue to grow.

“We’ve also been approached by a few schools in Ghana where we’ve been over recruiting,” Crewe-Read notes, as well as a partnership in North America that is in the early stages of talks.

The school’s language exchange programs are also a key part of the school’s international strategy, with regular exchanges in Spain, Crewe-Read says, and the consistent presence of international staff on campus also boosts that learning.

“Nobody gets lost – that’s fundamentally important”

“It oughtn’t just be the student body that is diverse – and of course, you can’t really control your staff insofar as you always take the best person off the list of applicants – but we’ve been really lucky and we have got a very diverse staff for where we are.”

On the side of students, though, Crewe-Read’s biggest takeaway from her time at Bishop’s Stortford is the way students are able to effectively interact with each other – whether they’re domestic or international.

“I was chatting to a younger pupil actually, about something that was going on in his life that he wasn’t very happy about. I said, ‘oh, are you going to talk to your housemaster about that when you get back to the boarding house?’ and he said, ‘no, no, no, it’s not that serious. I’ll chat to the upper sixths about it’.

“It’s sort of the school version of I’m not going to tell Mum and Dad, but I’ll talk to my big brother. It comes back to that idea that nobody gets lost – that’s fundamentally important, even in a smaller school like ours.”

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