Boarding schools have too many students from ‘just a few’ countries

British boarding schools must avoid having too high a concentration of pupils from a small number of overseas countries, the head of the Boarding Schools Association will say.

Robin Fletcher, national director of the BSA, will use a speech at Bedales School in Hampshire tomorrow to urge schools to “recruit students from as many countries as possible, not just a few.”

His speech will not name individual countries. However, it comes after the Independent Schools Council’s annual census, published last month, found 19.7 per cent of all overseas pupils at boarding schools were from China, and 18.1 per cent were from Hong Kong. The third largest cohort, at 10.4 per cent, was from Russia.

“Boarding schools work best when they involve students of all types, ages, backgrounds, cultures, faiths and nationalities and that is one of their many amazing attributes,” Mr Fletcher will say.

“The opportunity for boarding schools in the future however is to recruit students from as many countries as possible, not just a few.”

He will also warn that the balance between national and international students must not “tip” in future.

“In response to the global financial challenges of the past eight years, many schools have recruited more international students,” he will say.

“There is nothing intrinsically wrong with this approach. Except that one of British boarding’s strengths has historically been in its national-international mix.

“And when this becomes in danger of tipping in favour of one side or another then it threatens to dilute the appeal of boarding to parents both in the UK and abroad.”

Mr Fletcher will also urge schools to “integrate students of every nationality” in boarding houses.

During his speech he will also say that typical boarding fees of £150 per day are “great value”, because that sum includes teaching, board, facilities, cross-curricular activities and access to 24-hour medical care.

However, he will add: “As we all know, senior boarding is charged by the year, not the day. And £30,000 a year is a lot of money in any language for any family considering boarding as an option.”

He will urge private boarding schools to spend less on “very impressive” new facilities and divert the funds to bursaries for disadvantaged pupils and for “middle-income families for whom boarding fees are now beyond reach.”

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