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Foreign agents for boarding schools,what exactly do they do?

(9 Posts)
wurzeldrink Fri 23-Oct-15 09:28:01

I see lots of threads with people from abroad saying they have been given x y z schools as possible,but could mumsnetters give some details as the person knows nothing/very little about them?
These lists seem very random,be that on a sporting,academic or even geographical basis,are they in fact just little more than schools that have vacancies and or pay the biggest finders fees?
I presume these agents are being paid to find the right school for each individual child,from the lists I see that doesnt seem to happen very often,Cheltenham college or Christs Hospital? How many uk parents would see those two as viable alternatives?

Grikes Fri 23-Oct-15 11:24:02

I think the best way to approach the use of an agent is for the basics. For example to help you with taking the exams. To give you a brochure of the schools they represent. I'm afraid only you know your child and what environment he or she will thrive in. So you can't rely on the agent but on yourself. We have found that most agents will say anything to make the sale (happened to a friend). You have to know what school you want. Then make the agent make the necessary arrangements. I would never trust an agent to pick the school for my child.

wurzeldrink Fri 23-Oct-15 11:31:59

None of the parents on here seem to have any knowledge of the schools,so they do seem to be putting all their faith in these agents,it just seems very odd(polite version),the agents just seem to throw out names,even after theyve given these names they dont seem to give any details to these prospective parents,Christs is in many ways an excellent school but its a very individual school and not to explain that to prospective parents is just wrong
Sounds to me that its money for old rope.

Ladymuck Fri 23-Oct-15 12:49:41

Looking at it from the other side, some UK schools will direct overseas students to one of their agents, leaving the agent with the task of an initial vetting of potential candidates. Most UK boarding schools will put some sort of cap on the number of overseas students that they will accept, but the demand seems to be insatiable, and a school would be overwhelmed trying to field questions from parents who have little understanding of the UK school system.

meditrina Fri 23-Oct-15 19:51:59

I think the basic difference is that the overseas agent of a school or schools represents those ones only, and schleps found fairs etc as part of the overseas marketing, puts on the welcoming face of the school, eases admin etc. Their role is to present the school with good quality (full fees) candidates.

If you want tailored actual advice on which schools are likely to be the best for for your DC, then you need to use an educational consultant (and pay for the service, though that is a drop in the ocean compared to several years of boarding fees).

If you're a first time buyer, not resident in UK, then you may well not know about the sources of advice available and anything which narrows down what is a huge and somewhat baffling array of choices is going to be welcome. But you might not know if it's also helpful/reliable/comprehensive. So asking on MN or elsewhere (other websites are available) could be useful.

happygardening Sat 24-Oct-15 08:15:09

Many parents from abroad often have little or no English, so are unable to communicate with schools, agents obviously act as interpreters and as said above guide parents through what must often seem like very complicated admissions processes. They also can continue working with parents once the child has joined a school providing guardians, and being the first point contact for a school.
But I agree they throw up some very odd suggestions sometimes it seems that they just pull schools out of a hat.

LIZS Sat 24-Oct-15 08:26:54

I think they tend to have certain schools which they recommend depending on how academic the child is, sporty/musical etc., and where they have contacts for guardians. Maybe they even get something form the schools in return for recommendation. They certainly seem to throw up an eclectic mix of options and I wonder how much they are trading on the kudos of o/s students going to British boarding schools and whether their parents realise they are not necessarily top flight. Certainly placing a child from Far East in rural Yorkshire seems an odd fit, as one poster did. The schools themselves may be fine but perhaps don't always offer the experience the parents assume they are paying for nor automatically feed the Unis as they anticipate.

Ahwoo Sat 24-Oct-15 12:22:15

Having worked with one this summer, and questioned a number of others over the past few months, I can tell you exactly what they do. They're basically a match-maker.

For the better-known schools they act as the initial vetting provider, screening the suitable candidates for interviews & entrance exams etc. For the lesser known schools they basically help them fill up the vacancies.

I just came back from a "Education Expo" held in Hong Kong, where ~20 schools from the UK were here to recruit boarding school students. I was there for only 1 hr (expo runs for 2 days I'm told) but there must have been 1000+ parents & children present, from Y7 all the way to sixth form, all looking to secure a place at one of these schools (and yes, the schools mentioned above were present at this expo - probably why you saw "that" post earlier this week).

Education is a big business. As some have mentioned in other posts, the average UK household is no longer able to afford the day fees at independent schools, let alone the fees for full boarding, so the schools have had to cast their nets further afield to sustain their business model.

But why China or Hong Kong? China - because that's where the money is today (PM Cameron put on quite a show for Prez Xi this week, no?). Hong Kong because there is money there and the locals simply do not trust the government and the direction they are taking with the secondary syllabus.

In my experience, the very top schools (Winchester, Eton, Harrow, Wycombe Abbey, Cheltenham Ladies etc) do not have to employ agents. Their brand and prestige is usually more than enough to get oversea parents to register their child very early on. However, for those the next tier down or further below (I'll avoid naming schools least I offend any parents), they will use the agents for the reasons I've stated above.

Are they any use? From my experience, there is little value add for any parent who has done their homework. That's because those parents have probably screened a shortlist of schools and have already applied/registered with those they are most interested in. However, for those parents who have little or no knowledge at all about the UK or boarding schools, the agents are probably the best guide they can access right now, particularly if English isn't the parents 1st language (as Happy said).

Bear in mind also for DC's currently in Y8 or preparing for GCSE's, most of them would have missed the deadline for Sept 2016 entry already, so the agent is really helping them screen schools that still have vacancies available for next September (or the other way around, helping the school fill a GBP30,000+ hole in their budget next year).

Grikes Sun 25-Oct-15 14:55:20

I have also found that different agents represent diffrent types of schools. So picking the right agent is very important. You can not just pick any and hope they will find the best school for your child. I have heard of children being sent to some very dodgy schools. Where a simple internet check will red flag many.

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