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Chinese investors buying UK private schools will help keep sector afloat
2019-03-28
Chinese investors buying private schools in the UK will help keep the independent sector afloat, the former headmaster of Harrow School has said.
 
Struggling private schools should be “jolly pleased” that companies from the Far East want to buy them up, according to Barnaby Lenon, chair of the Independent Schools Council (ISC).  
 
He said that the recent trend for Chinese firms investing in British private schools is a “very encouraging development” and can be the “salvation” of small institutions which on the brink of financial collapse.    
 
“There will be some people who will say, isn’t it a shame we’re selling our schools to the Chinese?” he said.
 
"Well, that’s just a failure to recognise that China is a much wealthier country than we are. They’ve got the money now, we haven’t, and we should be jolly pleased that they regard English schools as something that they wish to invest in.”
 
A number of private schools in the UK have been bought up by Chinese firms in recent years. Last October Bright Scholar, the largest operator of international and bilingual schools in China, bought Bournemouth Collegiate School, a boarding school. It was the “first step outside China” for the company which now wants to build a “global network of premium schools”.
 
St Bees, a co-educational independent school in Cumbria, was bought by Full Circle Education, a Hong Kong-based education group, and has reopened this academic year.
 
Ipswich High School for Girls was sold to Ipswich Education Ltd, backed by the Chinese Wanda Group, whose assets total about £6 billion. It accepted boys for the first time this academic year to boost numbers.
 
The Achieve Group, which already owns Chase Grammar, a boarding school in Cannock, Staffordshire, and Abbotsholme School in nearby Uttoxeter, has said that it has “exciting plans to make further acquisitions over the next few years”.
 
Mr Lenon told the Times Education Supplement magazine that Chinese means that smaller schools, which may otherwise close down, can “remain viable”.
 
Chinese investment could also be positive because as it may lead to a rise in the number of Chinese students, who are “often quite high quality”.
 
“It gives UK pupils in those schools a sense of globalisation, which all children need to have these days,” he said.
 
Mainland China is the largest source of foreign-born pupils at British boarding schools, with numbers rising 10 per cent last year to just over 9,000.
 
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