Private schools go East to teach

Independents are eyeing up the profits to be made in China.

British private schools are expanding in China where they look set to enter a huge and as yet untapped market by providing education for Chinese pupils.

The Girls' Day School Trust, which runs 28 schools in England, plans to open a high school in Shanghai in September next year. And Nord Anglia, a British education company, will open a pre-school for 400 children this year.

Famous independent schools, including Dulwich college and Harrow, have already opened branches in China, but are legally barred from teaching pupils from the mainland.

However, both the trust and Nord Anglia have overcome the restrictions by teaming up with Chinese partners and having their curriculums approved by the Chinese authorities.

The new co-educational and fee-paying girls' trust school in Shanghai will be twinned with Oxford high in the UK. It will cater for around 600 pupils aged 15 to 18 and offer places to day pupils and boarders. Lessons will be in Chinese and English but follow a largely Chinese curriculum.

The school will be the first of many joint ventures planned by the trust.

It also hopes to open a separate school for expatriates.

Barbara Harrison, chief executive of the trust, says: "China has an ambitious programme of educational reform and development. This is a partnership that makes sense and we are looking forward to making great strides in the coming years."

Nord Anglia is already a bigplayer in expatriate education in China, running two schools in Shanghai. A third is expected to open this year. The company also hopes to attract the newly affluent Chinese middle class when it opens an Anglo-Chinese nursery school, for children up to the age of six, in the port city of Ningbo, near Shanghai. Lessons will be taught by an English-speaking teacher with a Chinese classroom assistant.

Andrew Fitzmaurice, chief executive of Nord Anglia, says: "The growing Chinese middle classes are education-hungry and British education has a fantastic reputation. If this school goes well, we will open many more.

It's an enormous market and looking at it from an economic point of view it is a fantastic export opportunity."

The move to China follows on from the growing number of British private schools that have been established for expatriate communities across Europe, the Middle and Far East. Dulwich college already has schools in Beijing and Shanghai and plans to open a third in Suzhou, northwest of Shanghai, in August this year.

Graham Able, the master of Dulwich, has said he hopes to establish a chain of up to 10 international schools to generate funds so that the main London school can go "needs blind" - where pupils are admitted regardless of their ability to pay.

Dulwich Beijing is investigating the possibility of working in partnership with a top selective Chinese school by sharing some facilities and teaching expertise. Dulwich Suzhou is also planning to work alongside a successful Chinese school to provide some curricular support.

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