||The UK's international secondary school sector is a well-oiled machine, attracting thousands of students every year. UK high schools provide a spring-board for students wanting to enter higher education at an English-speaking university and students can choose to study on an academic secondary school programme that caters specifically for their long-term goals.
UK high schools have always been popular with international students due to their global reputation for high quality. As demand has grown, however, many schools report how courses specifically catering for international students have developed as a result. Valerie Simpson from the Cambridge Tutors College in Croydon, says that when the college first started accepting international students 25 years ago, “there was an increasing demand from international students for traditional A-level courses that would qualify them for entry to UK universities”. More recently, however, Simpson notes, “Our fast-track one-year GCSE course is popular with international students who have not quite reached the standard academically, or do not have the language skills, to start an A-level course straight away.”
Elsewhere, Sarah Bellotti at King’s International Study Centre, attached to King’s School in Cambridgeshire, says there is a strong focus on GCSEs at the centre. “[We] mostly prepare students for the exams on a one-year course,” she says. “While there is a strong focus on English, the emphasis is on academic English and we have phased out the typical language exams of KET, PET and FCE,” she says.
Obtaining academic qualifications that will help achieve future academic goals is clearly a priority for many international students at UK high schools. Hazel Ormrod at Padworth College in Berkshire says that they have opened an International Study Centre at the school to cater for international students “who wish to combine English language with academic study in preparation for GCSEs or A-level studies”. She adds, “We also developed a university access programme in business or law, which is a one-year course designed for students aged 17 years and over who have completed their high school education but who need to improve their English and their academic achievement in the subjects that they plan to study at university. The course is internally assessed and is recognised by an increasing number of British universities.”
At St Clare’s in Oxford, which offers international students an International Baccalaureate (IB) and pre-IB programme, Francisco Bustos says that ensuring students mix with different nationalities is an important aspect of the course. “We have over 40 nationalities at any one time in the college,” says Bustos, who adds that the school’s partnerships with US universities running university-level courses also ensures a ready supply of native English speakers at the school.
Integration into the cultural and academic way of life in the UK is vital for international students and many schools stress that this is an important part of the curriculum. Katja von Schweitzer at St Mary’s Hall in Brighton, says that playing a full part in school life is a must for all international students and that their “buddy” system is a way to help students adapt to time away from home. “Every year we run our seagull programme which takes [students] to places of interest e.g. London, Portsmouth, Lewes [where we] give talks and activities to broaden their knowledge and understanding of British life,” she adds.
With so many new courses on offer, international enrolments at many UK high schools remain healthy. Gwyn Phillips from King Edwards School in Surrey says that the school limits international enrolments to 25 per cent of the overall student body and adds, “Mainland China is the fastest growing group [and] Germany provides the largest single nationality group.”
As schools develop and offer new programmes, the popularity of UK high schools shows no sign of waning, and Ormrod notes, “We have noticed an increase in enquiries from the Middle East and East European countries.”
(Due to the complexity of the data, this article is only displayed as a pdf)