For anxious parents sending their young child abroad to secondary school, their safety and wellbeing are of paramount importance. Considered clean, green and safe, New Zealand is a natural choice. Comprising two main landmasses, 77 per cent of New Zealand’s entire population reside on the North Island. According to the New Zealand Boarding Schools Association website, 57 of its 90 members are based here.
“We have been accepting international students since 2000,” says Helen Richardson at St Paul’s Collegiate School in Hamilton. Five per cent of the school’s 670 students are international, she adds, explaining that the school has been promoting itself in China.
At Hereworth School, a private preparatory school for boys in Havelock North, overseas student numbers are small. Education in New Zealand is good value for money, reasons Headmaster Ross Scrymgeour, particularly for those who may have suffered at the hands of the global financial crisis. Korean numbers in particular have suffered of late, he adds.
An international experience abroad affords young students the chance to gain cultural perspectives, and the prospect of assimilating into HE greatly appeals to both students and parents, as Richardson explains. “Many Asian parents wish to give their children a Western-style education, and boarding schools are seen as an attractive option. They usually offer smaller class sizes and more resources with a diverse range of extracurricular activities.”
St Paul’s is the only independent secondary school in Hamilton, notes Richardson, catering for both single sex (junior school) and co-ed (senior school). It also runs Tihoi Venture School based on the western side of Lake Taupo. During year 10 (age 14), male students can enrol on an 18-week residential course which combines outdoor pursuits with tuition in academic subjects. “The outdoor education element of the school programme takes boys out their comfort zone and along with the communal living, regular schooling and outdoor experiences, the young men develop into independent, responsible and contributing members of society,” she adds.
Accommodating students in on-site residences gives children stability and reassures parents that their children are being adequately supervised. “All of our international students board,” says Glenn McIntosh at Rathkeale College, a boys’ secondary school on the outskirts of Masterton. “Rathkeale has huge grounds surrounded by a river suitable for swimming and fishing. There is a swimming pool, squash court, tennis courts, weights room, gym and music department available for students after school hours.”
The hostel facilities provided at Hereworth School offer a safe physical and emotional environment for students. Licensed by the Ministry of Education, “Boys get consistent pastoral support from the time they arrive. We also have access to people who speak the boys’ first languages,” says Scrymgeour.
At Diocesan School for Girls, a private girls’ school in Auckland, both homestay and boarding options are available, says Simone Clarke. The school’s three boarding wings cater for up to 50 students in years nine to 13 (ages 13-to-17 years) and campus facilities include a world-class aquatics centre and multipurpose sports turf complex.
Both a day and boarding school, international students at St Paul’s can choose between boarding or living with a local New Zealand family. “All host families undergo a strict application process, assessment of suitability and are visited and approved by the school,” explains Richardson. In addition, the school requires parents of all international students to appoint a guardian for their child. “The guardian ensures the care of the student while living away from his/her parents. We feel it is important that the student has someone...whom they can meet with regularly and feel directly supported by.”
“International students are integrated across all year levels and areas of curriculum,” notes Clarke. They can enrol on either the National Certificate of Educational Achievement [New Zealand’s official secondary school qualification] or the International Baccalaureate Diploma programme. “Speakers of other languages are given English as a Second Language (Esol) support, either individually, in pairs or in small groups,” vouches the Diocesan School webpage.
At St Paul’s, the language proficiency of overseas students is assessed upon arrival. “All mainstream classes are available to the students in addition to daily Esol classes,” says Richardson. Meanwhile, at Hereworth School, international students can expect to take up to 10 extra hours of English per week in addition to the mainstream curriculum.
“Many of our international families have learned of us through word-of-mouth due to our excellent reputation,” says Simone Clarke at Diocesan School for Girls in Auckland. Using trusted agents partners is also beneficial, she adds, as they “understand the special nature of Diocesan and what it can offer”.
Glenn McIntosh at Rathkeale College in Masterton says they have attended agent workshops in the past, but now prefer to maintain the agent relationships that are already in existence. Student source markets can vary, but to date Thai, Hong Kong and Korean numbers are flourishing, he says.
At St Paul’s Collegiate School in Hamilton, marketing efforts include education fairs, working with highly respected agents both on- and off-shore, annual recruitment trips, website and word-of-mouth recommendations, says the school’s Helen Richardson. “We are also a member of Waikato Education International, a vibrant regional organisation that actively supports marketing of its members and promotion of the region,” she adds.
Hereworth School in Havelock North uses a combination of methods: agents, word-of-mouth and the website, relates the school’s Ross Scrymgeour. He adds that the school is making a conscious effort to market itself more going forward.