State school set to open overseas

10th October 2008 at 01:00
Bristol school plans African offshoots to establish `global' reputation

At least one state school is planning to follow the example of top English independent schools by opening branches in two foreign countries, The TES can reveal.

City Academy in Bristol is proposing to open off-shoots in Africa, in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Zimbabwe.

The move is being promoted by Anthony Seldon, master of the independent Wellington College, which is also planning to open a number of foreign branches.

Speaking at a Specialist Schools and Academies Trust conference tomorrow, Dr Seldon will tell heads of state-funded schools that they should expand abroad.

Ray Priest, principal of the school, which is part of the National Challenge programme for schools with low results, said opening branded schools overseas would help to establish his academy as a "global educational establishment".

"The motive for us would not be profit, as it is for some of the private schools," he said. "It would create opportunities for staff and pupils to learn a great deal from each other."

Dr Priest said that successful state schools should follow the example of private schools, which have already opened branches in China, Thailand and Kazakhstan.

Dr Seldon told The TES: "I know that a number of overseas governments want to have prestigious and high-achieving British schools starting up in their countries. I see no reason why that cannot include state schools. Establishing schools in other countries would create wonderful opportunities for these schools and I encourage them to consider doing it."

Dr Priest said that he had discussed his plans with the academy's sponsors, and he expected progress to be made within the next two years. "We are a state school, but being an academy we are independent," said Dr Priest. "That means we have the freedom to follow these kinds of opportunities."

No public money would be diverted from the academy to support the overseas ventures, Dr Priest said.

The high-profile public school Harrow is already operating schools in Thailand and China. Dulwich College has three schools in China, in Beijing, Shanghai and Suzhou, north-west of Shanghai.

Graham Able, the master of Dulwich, has said he wants to open up to 10 schools around the world in order to generate funds for means-tested bursaries for the children attending its main London campus.

Mr Able has said he wants to use the money to create `needs blind' admissions - where pupils are awarded places irrespective of their ability to pay.

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