Partnered schools of the future

How will partnered schools change in the next ten years?

As well as asking where new markets for international schools are likely to emerge in the next ten years, Paul Cabrelli and Andy Homden think we should be considering what kind of schools are going to be built.

Change in the air

There is a real sense that although international education is still growing, the sector is changing. While underlying demand for access to a high-quality education in the medium of English remains undiminished, shifts in geopolitics and changes in the way that international schools are regulated within national jurisdictions have increasingly focused attention on where markets for new international school are likely to grow.

However, the question of what kind of international schools will be established in partnership with schools in the UK during this period of change is equally important.

The established template

International schools associated with British partners are generally of a certain type. A ‘UK Branded’ international school is likely to be a co-educational day school for students aged 3 to 18, whether or not the home school offers an all-though provision, or is co-educational. The international version of the home school will embrace students of a wide range of abilities, with provision for learning support as well as Oxbridge, Ivy League and Russell Group-bound alumni. It will, perhaps, be built to an award-winning design.

It will be a premium, high-cost school and place an emphasis on general ‘excellence’.

There is every reason to believe that more schools of this type will be built in the next ten years. But is it the only possible model for UK-branded international schools? If global uncertainty is making us think about the ‘where’ of new international schools, we should, perhaps pay rather more attention to ‘what kind’ of new schools are going to be started as international education evolves. In this context, home schools might well benefit from devoting a certain amount of time to reimagine what they bring to the table as an international partner.

The growing importance of boarding

A noticeable trend developing in the last 4 or 5 years is the growing provision for international boarding, not only in Asia, but also in Europe.

Boarding opens interesting possibilities for new schools to become more specialised than the ‘broad and balanced’ day model that predominates at the moment. According to Nick Mooney, an expert in specialist sports academies, experience suggests that schools which offer strong elements of sports specialisation also attract stronger general applications. Bearing this in mind, potential UK partner schools might benefit from identifying an element of specialisation in which they excel, in order to set them apart from competitors when seeking an international partner.

Possible specialisations

So what kind of specialist schools are likely to emerge in the next 5 to 10 years?

Sports Academies

Establishing a specialised sports academy within with the new school, possibly in association with a national sporting body or sports charity, is likely to become increasingly common.  Australia is leading the way by aligning designated sports schools with the Australian Olympic Committee.


Expect more sporting initiatives in the next five years associated with UK brands.

Expressive and Performance Arts Colleges

Is this a curriculum area whose time has really come and gone mainstream? At the Millennium, international educators took note when Singapore acknowledged the importance of the arts in a modern economy and educational system. Massive investment in the Arts followed. Where Singapore goes, others follow. Creativity was found to be ‘useful’ and was here to stay.

And it’s not just about the artists and performers. With film, production and technical skills increasingly in demand to serve a rapidly expanding global entertainment industry, this is an area in which many UK schools are well placed to support in a new project.

Science, Design and Technology

Few countries in the world can afford to neglect the education of scientists, engineers and designers of all types. Specialised Science and Technology Colleges in zones where government and private investment are encouraging the growth of speciific technologies are likey to become increasingly common. Home schools with the right connections to industry are well placed to take advantage of this.

Entrepreneurial and business education

The strength of virtually any national economy will be reflected in the durability of its Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs). The growth of indigenous businesses is especially important for countries with a youthful population – countries like Egypt and Nigeria, where the development of entrepreneurial skills is essential, a priority that could provide opportunities for partner schools running the right kind of specialised programmes in the UK already.

Low-cost hybrid programmes.

UK partner schools have been reluctant to position themselves to meet the growing demand for low-cost international education. This might be about to change.  Hybrid education, in which a potential UK partner school may have developed a special expertise in recent years, might have rather different applications in a developing economy, where the majority of the population cannot afford a full international education. Online enrichment and weekend classes embedded in a newly-founded premium school might open up pathways for many, while helping to identify talented students who could qualify for scholarships and bursaries to help them attend the school as a full-time student.

Greater variety

The predominant 3 – 18 broad-based partner school is not going to disappear. Far from it. However, greater variety is likely and partner schools from the UK, the Americas and Australasia are certain to play an important role as these trends evolve.

And there is one other advantage in developing a specialist proposition: it may help to focus the search for a new partner, which in turn brings us back to solving the question of ‘where’?


Andy Homden and Paul Cabrelli are Senior Consultants at Consilium Education and support UK schools seeking to gain access to the international market in a variety of ways.

For further information about this work, please contact Andy Homden on



FEATURE IMAGE: by Ante Hamersmit on Unsplash

Support Images:  by Yingchou Han, Frankie Lopez, Ahmad Odeh, Martin Sanchez, Christina @ on Unsplash and by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay.




You may also like