'Quota' fears as independent schools close doors to Russian pupils

25th January 2015 at 07:00

Independent schools in the UK are closing their doors to Russian and other foreign pupils for fear of being swamped, according to experts at the Good Schools Guide.

The number of Russians in UK independent schools has tripled in the past eight years, leading to Russian families now reporting being given the cold shoulder.

Susan Hamlyn, director of the Good Schools Guide advice service, said they had received a number of calls in recent months from parents asking if there was a prejudice against pupils from Russia.

Some schools could be operating an unofficial quota system to restrict the number of pupils from any one country, she said. And the volume of wealthy Russians wanting a British education for their children meant they could be bearing the brunt of any attempt to limit the number of overseas students.

“It is particularly Russians, but in some schools it could be Germans or Spanish or Chinese,” Ms Hamlyn said. “We have been getting various emails and calls from very frustrated and anxious Russian families saying they’re getting the sense that the schools have a quota of Russians.”

Andrew Halls, head master of King's College School in Wimbledon, warned at the end of last year that many British families had been priced out of an independent education and that some schools were at risk of becoming “finishing schools for the children of oligarchs”.

According to the Independent Schools Council’s latest census, there were 3,057 Russian pupils in UK independent schools last year, the third largest single nationality after Hong Kong and mainland China.

Ms Hamlyn said the advice service, which helps parents to choose a school and navigate the admissions process, was being approached on a weekly basis by agents acting for rich clients, mostly Russian, who were determined to send their children to school in the UK.

But although the best schools were always oversubscribed, she said Russian families felt particularly aggrieved at not being able to get a place for their child. “The Russians are beginning to find that it is getting increasingly difficult,” she said.

Andrew Fleck, headmaster of Sedbergh School in Cumbria, said that although he had never come across a school that had a quota for overseas students, most schools wanted a balance of abilities and characteristics.

“Too much of anything creates an imbalance, whether it is too many musicians or too many cricketers,” he said. He added that a preponderance of any one nationality among a school’s overseas pupils could alter the atmosphere of a school.

“It would be a different experience for the pupils. The likelihood of learning English would be diminished and integration becomes more difficult,” he said.

Related stories:

Cultural confusion costs foreign parents dearly – 19 December 2014

School fees rise four times faster than earnings – 5 September 2014

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