Following Britain’s referendum on its European Union membership, UK school leaders have spoken about how the principles that underpin an international education can serve to unite nations.
Below is an extract from this article published in Relocate's Guide to Education & Schools in the UK. Click below if you are interested in receiving a full printed copy of the guide.
Globally mobile families operating in a cosmopolitan and culturally diverse business world often have the same requirements for education and school choices for their children. Happily, a variety of schools in the UK, including boarding, independent, international, comprehensive and grammar schools, now offer diversity of curriculum choice and a truly international student population – a state of affairs that, some might argue, places the country’s students in a unique position to navigate the choppy waters that the UK faces following the vote to leave the European Union.
Diversity leads to understanding
Writing in The Telegraph
newspaper following the Brexit
vote, John Walmsley, principal of United World Colleges’ (UWC) Atlantic College, in South Wales, spoke of how his diverse students were responding to the UK’s decision to leave the EU.
According to a post-referendum breakdown, nearly three-quarters of voters aged between 18 and 24 voted to remain. This came as no surprise to Mr Walmsley. “Nowadays, most of our international students cannot imagine the continent without agreements and organisations such as Schengen and Erasmus,” he said. “Even in an unstable modern world, one thing became increasingly clear to me over the campaign: young people simply do not have the same concerns with immigration, collaboration and pluralism that older generations have.”
Indeed, writers and school leaders typically agree that today’s students possess an unprecedented global and cultural awareness. Tim Jones, deputy head (academic) of Sevenoaks School, in Kent, a coeducational day and boarding school for students aged 11–18 that offers the International Baccalaureate
(IB), agrees. “As an IB school since 1978, Sevenoaks offers an education with a strong global dimension in an open-minded, cosmopolitan environment including students from over 40 countries. We believe fully in the virtues of a broad, international and connected education.”
As Antony Spencer, principal of St Lawrence College, Ramsgate, an independent day and boarding school for pupils aged from three to 18, points out, the picture provided by the latest pupil data shows that diversity is growing across a wide range of schools in the UK. “The Independent Schools Council’s 2016 Census provides interesting information about independent schools in the UK, including the statistic that 30 per cent of pupils are now from a non-white background, a rise of 7 per cent over the last seven years. And the figures for state schools are broadly the same,” he says.
St Lawrence College
“London is probably leading the way, as ever; here, over 50 per cent of pupils in independent schools are from the inappropriately named ‘minority ethnic’ category. So, in aggregate, the UK is increasingly ethnically diverse, although the distribution is patchy between schools and areas. It is a similar picture with socio-economic diversity, with 30 per cent of all independent-school pupils receiving some degree of fee support.”
Further UK Guide articles:
Preparing for an unknown future
Within an internationally minded school, there is often an imperative that students not only learn what they need to complete their studies but also learn to think critically and be open to new ways of operating, so they are ready for an unknown future.
“In any period of political and economic uncertainty, the value of a broad education of mind and character rises,” says Tim Jones. “At Sevenoaks, some 1,050 young people study with over 150 teachers and discover the value of working alongside people with different backgrounds. They desire to become compassionate, responsible global citizens.
“The IB Diploma Programme suits this aim very well. Not affiliated to any national government’s agenda, it has remained relatively stable and aspirational when competing qualification systems have been downgraded by compromise and disturbed by the caprice of successive governments.
Optimism for the future
Commenting in the CBI’s 2016 skills survey, Rod Bristow, president of UK and core at Pearson Education, outlined his vision for the next phase of Brexit delivery. “The challenge now is to shape the future to ensure we remain outward-looking, inclusive and optimistic,” he said in the report.
“Some said that the motivation to leave or to remain in the EU was a question of choice between concerns about the economy and immigration. While neither of those ‘lenses’ describes the more positive vision of an international and inclusive world, the skills agenda is central to all of the arguments. This year’s results [of the CBI skills survey] are striking in two key respects … Employers don’t just value what people know – they value what they can do.”Access hundreds of global services and suppliers in our Online Directory Get access to our free Global Mobility Toolkit