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A British education, like a Knightsbridge penthouse, has become a commodity to be bought by foreigners who don’t even think about money, or at least not in the way there rest of us do.These parents will have watched Downton Abbey and want to buy their kids a piece of that — indeed, it is striking how many of the prospectuses of country schools feature a building which looks like a screen grab from Downton’s opening credits. Country solicitors, provincial architects, university lecturers cannot send their children to the boarding schools they once attended.

‘Modern boarding accommodation consists of smart and well-equipped bedrooms, the majority now with private bathrooms, all with flat-screen TVs [in fact there are two TVs in some twin rooms — just in case these lucky pupils wish to watch different programmes…], DVD players, telephones with voice mail, fridges, electric kettles, microwaves, air conditioning, trouser presses, room safes and ice-makers — pretty much everything except a mini-bar in fact.’ Increasingly, schools are being tailored to match the lifestyles of their super-wealthy foreign pupils, so they can move from the luxury apartment in Shanghai or Moscow to Daddy’s yacht and on to school without the slightest cultural discombobulation.The grander, more academically top-rank schools are generally oversubscribed, so they can control the balance of their intake and cap the figure of foreign pupils at around 15 per cent.Harrow takes a lot of Chinese at sixth-form level, which explains in part why Winston Churchill’s alma mater now offers English as an Additional Language.Then came the Russians who, with Nigerians, are now the fastest-growing population in British private schools.While the Independent Schools Council reports that private school rolls fell slightly last year, the number of foreign children maintained its upward trend.No self-respecting Russian oligarch is going to have his little princess slumming it in a dormitory with seven other girls, so the big trend is now towards private accommodation and fine food.


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