Helping UK schools enter the international sector

The growth of UK-partnered international schools

UK international brands

One feature of the growing international sector since 2000 has been the rise of the partner – or ‘branded’ –  school. These are new international schools that carry the name of a partner school, mostly in the UK. According to ISC Research,

in September 2021, there were a total of 174 overseas campuses directly connected to a foreign independent school brand (either owned, as part of an investor/brand partnership, or delivering a service agreement). Of these, 136 were from the UK with the rest from the US, Australia and Canada.

Understanding the international sector

For a growing number of UK independent schools, working with an international partner to start a new school has become an important aspect of strategic planning, enabling them to build endowment funds for scholarships, extend their global influence and, increasingly, play a key role in the development of educational technology.

Our consultancy with schools in the UK has become an inportant part of our work as schools reassess their long-term strategy following the pandemic.

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Our support for UK schools

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Understanding international options

Well-informed decision-making

Support for UK schools

In order to help our clients in the UK evaluate the opportunities and risks when seeking to open an international partner school, we divide the process into five phases. Our aim is to enable UK-based schools understand the process in increasing depth in order to make well-informed decisions about engaging with the process further after each phase has been completed.

The 5 phases of an international project

1.  Understanding the international sector

2.  Articulating the school’s international offering

3.  Planning and conducting a partner search

4.  Feasibility study and business planning

5.  Project implementation

Phase by phase support

In order to evaluate any opportunity that may arise to establish a new school overseas, we prepare a thorough briefing for our clients about the most recent developments and trends in the international sector, summarising the likely costs and risks that must be taken before a school project can be brought to fruition.

Finding the right opportunity is not – and never has been - an easy business. Boards need to discuss the relevant issues and go in with their eyes open, but the global demand for an education in English and for a British education in particular remains strong. There is also growing interest in the establishment of international boarding schools, often associated with niche specialist academies (think golf, winter sports and performing arts).

Having understood more about what is happening in the international sector, the possible benefits and the risks, a school is in a much better position to ask 'is it right for us?'

During Phase 2, the UK school will deepen its awareness of the potential markets in which a new school might be started and come to acquire a deeper understanding of the international sector. It is also important to discuss what an international version of the UK school might look like in a different context. While appreciating that the new school's curriculum and student body will not necessarily replicate those of the home school, careful thought is now given to what aspects of the home school's ethos and approach to learning must be firmly established in the new school.

Assisting clients to design and present a convincing International Value Proposition to be put to an international partner is a key task in Phase 2. It is important to distinguish between the School’s strengths per se and the school’s knowledge, expertise and history which a prospective partner can use in order to establish and then grow the new school successfully,

In Phase 3 we support our clients in setting up the structures, budget, responsibilities, procedures and action plan for an international partner search. As Phase 3 is the most important and possibly the most difficult phase in establishing a school overseas, it is crucial that great care is taken with the selection of a partner in order to minimise risks and ensure the long-term success of the project.

Having helped to design a client's search strategy we support its implementation as required, helping to draft preferred Terms of Engagement, making introductions to trusted partners and advising the client as opportunities arise and negotiations commence.

Having concluded a Memorandum of Understanding with a potential partner and progressed towards a partnership agreement, the long term success of the project depends on the preparation of a financial model to guide both the project implementation plan and the first years of the school's development.

Working with the UK client school and its international partner, we can assist by preparing the feasibility study to show the full business case for making the final commitment to a plan that has a good chance of being sustainable as well as educationally successful.  The study will analyse the current supply of school places in the region, potential demand for the new school, the school's target capacity and how quickly it might realistically achieve this.

We are able to offer project master-planning services to ensure that our client school in the UK and its partner remain in control of a complex process designed to ensure that the school opens on time, within budget in complaince with local regulations and in line with the agreed educational vision.

It is difficult to generalise how long it will take for a project to move from feasibility planning to opening the school. A wide range of factors come to bear on this question, which will include legal formalities surrounding contracts with overseas partners, national and local government planning application times, design and construction times and the whole process of regulatory approval.

We are also able to support the new school after opening in collaboration with our UK client and their international partner:

New  school management services

Policy and procedures

When a school opens, a wide range of day to day procedures – from student drop off to parent communication – must be in place. Confidence grows when these are well coordinated and properly communicated. The principles that guide procedures form the basis of a school’s policy manual, which we design and edit in collaboration with the school's leadership team.

We are also able to offer supervisory and management services to ensure that policy is implemented and procedures are embedded quickly and effectively.

Planning becomes so focused on opening the school during the project implementation phase, there can be a tendency to relax after Day 1. No school leadership team can afford to do so. Snagging continues, problems arise and ongoing operations, once started, need support as systems bed in and routines are established.

Having worked with the client to design the new curriculum, school policies, day-to-day procedures and the extra-curricular activities programme as the project is planned, we are well placed to provide supervisory and management services after the school is opened if required.

Having worked with the project team to open the school, we are also able to provide on-site leadership, management and advisory services for as long as the client requires after the school has opened.

If necessary we are able to supply a temporary Head of School and once a permanent appointment is made we are able to provide ongoing on-site or online advisory and management services as required by the client.

After opening, questions of strategic direction and the long-term planning arise. Answers must be immediate. Our strong recommendation is that a long-term development plan is prepared before opening and then carefully reviewed and updated.  The energy generated by the team to open the school is then transformed into the renewable power source that will drive it forward for the first three years.