`A normal school for the abnormally wealthy'

3rd February 2012 at 00:00
There are private schools - and then there is Institut Le Rosey. David Marley finds out why parents are prepared to shell out for the most expensive school in the world

On a clear day, the view from the school is spectacular. Lake Geneva glistens in front of you, with Mont Blanc, Europe's highest peak, dominating the horizon.

It is a remarkable setting, but its majesty is fitting for Institut Le Rosey, otherwise known as the "School of Kings" because of the large number of royals it has educated. It also happens to be renowned as the most expensive boarding school in the world.

For decades, it has been a magnet for a super-wealthy elite; old money and new, financial power brokers, the international aristocracy and the otherwise rich or famous. With annual fees for senior pupils topping pound;70,000 - more than double the amount charged by the likes of Eton or Harrow - the least pupils might expect is a decent view.

With a smile, Rob Gray, the school's headteacher, describes Le Rosey as just "a normal school for the abnormally wealthy". Granted rare access, TES went to discover what normal means for a school inhabited by 400 millionaire pupils from more than 50 different countries.

A first clue to the different kind of normality in operation at Le Rosey is that if you were to visit the school's main campus this term, you would find it deserted. The area around Lake Geneva in winter is often shrouded in thick cloud, spoiling that great vista. The solution? Move everyone and everything to the school's unique second campus, high up in the ultra-exclusive alpine village resort of Gstaad.

Ensconced in their home from home, pupils and teachers can enjoy fresh air, bright sunshine and daily skiing for two-and-a-half months before returning to the lakeside in spring.

"We're the only place where the whole school moves for a term," says Gray. "Four hundred pupils and 200 teachers and support staff all go; it's one of our selling points. It's such a mad thing to move an entire school; it's a major military operation, but all managed with fantastic Swiss efficiency.

"Every year, when we pack everything, we wonder if it's worth it, but the answer is always `yes' because you get away from a rather depressing Geneva to brilliant sunlight and fantastic views. It gives everyone a new lease of life, a real psychological boost."

You can read the full article in the February 3 issue of TES

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