Westminster School scraps plans for linked institutions in China

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Westminster School, one of the UK’s most prestigious schools, has canceled plans to develop a series of academies in China, in one of the most notable setbacks for the country’s rapid expansion of international education in the face of growing repression by the authorities.

Elite Private Foundation has been working since 2017 on plans to establish a school with 2,000 students in Chengdu, Sichuan Province. She was the first of six bilingual institutions for Chinese students that would give her advice, support and brand name for the first time outside her historic campus in central London under the Houses of Parliament.

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But in a letter to former and current staff and students on Tuesday, Mark Patten, chairman of the board, wrote that a combination of the Covid-19 pandemic and “recent changes in Chinese education policy” led to the project being scrapped.

He said: “I am writing with great regret to inform you that this project has come to an end for Westminster School.” “It is very unfortunate that the landscape for developing such schools now is very different from 2017.”

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Chengdu Westminster has been the latest in a growing number of British schools developing franchises, advisory operations and partnerships in other parts of the world, often using local partners and generating income sometimes used to support UK scholarships and scholarships.

ISC Research, an education consultancy, has identified 66 schools in China that are affiliated with 29 schools in the UK. Among those are 12 for the foreign-born children of Chinese citizens, who can hold foreign passports and Chinese ID cards until they have to choose citizenship when they turn 18. There are also 52 private bilingual schools open to other Chinese citizens. ISC said it was aware of 28 more schools in the pipeline.

Ralph Lucas, head of the Good Schools Guide, which has tracked the expansion of British education in other countries, said: “This is not the time to be involved in a new school in China if you have not established relationships and shown you are a good partner. Schools that are already operating may still be schools but someone to start What’s new now would be foolish.”

Beijing this year stopped approving new private schools for the first nine years of compulsory education. Several provinces have announced plans to reduce their student enrollment, with stricter controls on curricula and the use of foreign textbooks.

Westminster had licensed the rights to use its name via its company, Floreat Overseas Holdings, to a Hong Kong operator, which it said faced “numerous financial and logistical challenges” and was unable to restructure and successfully seek refinancing.

Florett reported a loss of £76,000 in the year to June 30, 2020, compared to losses of £149,000 in 2019. But Patten said in his letter that Westminster had not provided any funding to Chinese schools and had not been able to help support the closure of the operation. .

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