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Concerned about the change in curriculum/culture in independent schools

(89 Posts)
clarafarraday Fri 18-Dec-15 14:29:37

My son has attended an independent school for some time now. Recently I have noticed a change in focus to accommodate new international students. The rumours are that financial contributions are having an impact on decisions being made at the top. I chose to send my son to this school because of its prestigious reputation and I was hopeful that they would help him to excel and achieve his full potential. I’ve tried to speak with the school’s bursar but I am not getting anywhere. I feel that focus is shifting and special measures are being introduced for these international students which is wrong because we all pay our fees.

DawnMumsnet (MNHQ) Fri 18-Dec-15 15:54:56

Hi there,

We're moving this thread over to our Education topic now - hopefully the OP will get some advice there.

meditrina Fri 18-Dec-15 16:07:54

The bursar will only be able to help with fees and administration questions.

When do you next have a parents evening with academic staff?

If the changes to your specific school are not to your liking, then you will need to vote with your feet and move him to a school which has a curriculum you like. Do remember to give notice to quit from your current one at the right time.

FlounderingTeacher Fri 18-Dec-15 16:12:33

What sort of changes do you mean?

darcywheeler Fri 18-Dec-15 16:14:26

Not being part of the independent school network, I thought it was all the same, not just international students. Privileged paying for privileges! I’ll scratch your back and you scratch mine.

originalmavis Fri 18-Dec-15 16:15:03

Do you mean money above aptitude? Fast track the rich not as abled? Or kids not speaking English?

niettataylor Fri 18-Dec-15 16:20:34

No this happens at our school too. Some of the international students here barely speak English, we wonder how they even got in… We're assuming that their parents made an extra large contribution.

originalmavis Fri 18-Dec-15 16:23:28

Schools just bank the cash! We've had kids born in London start year 1 without speaking English.

roguedad Fri 18-Dec-15 18:03:25

OP - can you be more specific? My DS school has a good few kids from the Far East and I only see positive impact from that in terms of being academically focus. I heard there was a request for more Chinese food but my DS was extremely happy with that! There are no language issues.

What precisely are you getting at?

LIZS Fri 18-Dec-15 18:10:29

Are you perhaps implying that your dc's education is being compromised by learning alongside international students for whom academic criteria are more relaxed? If so that is an issue more for the head/senior academic staff than bursar. Ime foreign students are often taught out of year and/or have supplementary eal lessons to overcome this and it is less of a difference once they get older and specialise.

happygardening Sat 19-Dec-15 01:11:36

I agree with Roguedad Ive got no problem with international students. International students particular those from Asia: Hong Kong Singapore etc are usually exceptionally hard working and focused, they're also usually impeccably well behaved and respectful of teaching staff because poor behaviour is not tolerated in their own countries and they are expected to be very respectful of those in authority. Secondly they are frequently exceedingly competent musicians an Asians friends DD who came to the UK for school was grade 8 in three instruments, (I'm told this is pretty much the norm) and if their grip on the language is weak in places when they arrive it very quickly improves. Finally it means that my DC's are exposed to another culture, the afore mentioned friends DD has stayed with us she is a joy to know and it's been really interesting to learn about her culture.
So TBH OP I'm not quite sure what your problem is.

granolamuncher Sun 20-Dec-15 13:19:25

I agree with Roguedad and happygardening. At her boarding school my DD has made friends from China and Hong Kong. She has learned so much about their families and culture. Their work ethic has also been a fantastic influence.

What does bother me, though, is that some schools are relying on wealthy Chinese (or Russian) parents to cope with their astronomic fee rises. Their traditional domestic market is vanishing apace as ISC research on affordability published last month has confirmed.

Money talks and what the super rich want (wherever they might be from) are ever more luxuries for their DC. The ethos of independent schools is changing as a result. It needn't be that way. The heads and governors could listen to the wise words of their founders (eg Dean Colet's condemnation of covetousness) rather than the wish lists in parental surveys and the fluff from The Sunday Times and Tatler.

Ta1kinPeace Sun 20-Dec-15 14:09:07

The top schools are sticking to the rigorous academic entry they use to hold their places in the tables

other schools are definitely being more relaxed for those willing to pay top whack
- have heard anecdotes with named schools from several sources

and some schools are now more than 50% expat EAL students which is bound to have a less than ideal impact

granolamuncher Sun 20-Dec-15 16:21:53

Rigorous academic standards and pandering to those who will pay more than the fees (i.e. donations for new buildings, boats etc) are not necessarily mutually exclusive.

If your entry tests are weighted more towards Maths and less towards English comprehension (and forget Latin), the international super rich will be well represented. When the good news arrives, they will be more than happy to contribute to the new 6th form centre or climbing wall requested by the current parents who completed a parental survey. Tatler will love it too and that's what matters now. Forget affordability and access (and Latin).

Ta1kinPeace Sun 20-Dec-15 16:24:24

and I'd never want to mention the school that let the ultra rich dad pay for the library extension and then kick his daughter out before A levels as her results were due to be shite

happygardening Sun 20-Dec-15 16:35:59

granola does yoir school publish its accounts?
The reason why I'm asking is that our does and the fees don't cover the annual expenditure. The building programe by the way is modest mainly refurbishing boarding hoses and essential maintainance of Mediaeval building. I'm great supporter of what DS2's school has to offer and many parents seem very happy with their choice but I don't think even it's greatest standard bearer in their wildest dreams would say the boys are living a life of luxury, "fluff" is definitely in short supply. Over the years I've visited many big name schools and not just from the point of view as a prospective parents and in the vast majority of cases I just don't continuously see the sort of stuff your talking about. Yes I've seen smart science blocks and pristine gyms but I've also see a wide range of building plenty shabby and unimpressive. Certainly if you come to DS's school (with one of the highest fees in the UK) you won't see either fancy science blocks or shiny gyms and it's not stopping UK or increasingly international parents from applying. Having said this I don't think anyone wants their child housed in large drafty dorms with broken windows, no heating and cold showers. Many many years ago I stayed in a girls boarding school in the Xmas holidays, a large Georgian pile that had clearly seen better days, the sash windows had cracks in the glass, they rattled all night and were incredibly drafty, there was no heating, each dorm housed 15-16, you put you clothes into two tiny drawers, there were no carpets but tatty lino on the floor and the hot water ran out after more than 30 people showered, the food was so awful I didn't eat for a week, we're talking shepherds pie without any meat, scrabbled egg that was water with yellow bits floating in it and toast that was so stretchy you could pull it into lots of interesting different shapes and as for the "crumble" the word brick springs to mind. I'm someone whose never looked at a bathroom in a boarding house in my life, I've no idea what the bathroom pupil ratio is and couldn't really care and I'm certainly not expecting La Gavroche but even I think that's a bridge too far.

DayToDayShit Sun 20-Dec-15 16:42:12

Can you be more specific about the changes?

happygardening Sun 20-Dec-15 16:42:50

You keep mantiioning "parental surveys", what parental surveys? I've never received one or completed one in my life.
By the way I believe that international students don't have to sit Latin in the the entrance exam for Win Coll but all sit it for IGCSE but Win Coll still has neither a climbing wall or a 6th form centre.

Ta1kinPeace Sun 20-Dec-15 16:46:24

TBH as somebody who went to private and sent my kids to state, I find the obsession with "new" in state schools rather amusing.
The older the better when paying
the newer the better when state funded
cynic? moi?

granolamuncher Sun 20-Dec-15 17:19:29

I beg to differ, happygardening, large drafty dorms and cold showers are part of the boarding school experience. If en-suite bedrooms are to be provided for each pupil instead, your clientele will inevitably be more exclusive and more focussed on individual gratification.

Your DS2's school could so easily have made itself more accessible in line with its founder's principles. Instead, vested interests, snobbery and feeble governors have ensured that it does indeed have some of the highest fees in the UK:

If you did get a parental survey, what would you ask for? Lower fees? wink

NewLife4Me Sun 20-Dec-15 17:24:05

People come from all over the world to dds school and many don't speak the language.
They have special classes and support for those who need it and i agree my dd is learning so much about other cultures.
There are fewer than 300 dc in the school and it is totally elite and ss, nobodies education is compromised due to international students.

Ta1kinPeace Sun 20-Dec-15 17:27:50

Much as the exclusivity of schools like WinCol grates with the rest of the world, reading that article makes me think that the former head totally missed the point of the school.

The Winchester houses are miniature stately homes dotted around a lovely posh little market town and the boys pootle into a way of learning unchanged since Jane Austen's time.
It costs a blerdy fortune but there are enough takers for the connections driven outcome
(as if you just wanted grades, Peter Symonds is free and 800 yards away)
that it will carry on for a while yet.
Winch will not go bust as it can ramp up the fees and sell more land for at least another 200 years, by which time London will be below sea level grin

Gruach Sun 20-Dec-15 17:39:31

large drafty dorms and cold showers are part of the boarding school experience.

Now I understand. This was written by a romantic, stuck in some Enid Blytonesque past where everyone knew their place.

Contemporary boarding schools aren't exclusively preparing people to endure rough living when they go out to subdue the colonies. I can't think of a reason why children who attend them should be significantly less comfortable than they would be in an average home. It's their real life, not some storybook fantasy requiring pluck and a stiff upper lip.

Drafty dorms and cold showers were unheard of even when I was a boarder 40 years ago.fgrin

eleven59 Sun 20-Dec-15 17:41:15

Ooh a private organisation pandering to its customers, selling its service and maximising its profits. How unusual!

granolamuncher Sun 20-Dec-15 17:54:14

Actually my DD's dorm last year was pretty drafty: there was a fault with a window that didn't get repaired. And the hot water runs out from time to time in that particular boarding house.

This is all character forming: stiff upper lips can be a good thing if you're not at the same time being fed nonsense about subduing colonies. Hardship and learning to muck in are perfectly respectable educational priciples: many of the socially progressive educational thinkers of the early C20th believed in them too.

Ta1 You're right about Nick Tate, of course. It was never going to work. My point (as always, I do bore on about this) is that Win Coll, like other schools, could have made different choices about how to use its wealth and opportunities . There is no inevitability about the rush to the richest and fees inflation.

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