Private education is booming in new markets and new forms
HOUSED in a jumble of ancient buildings in the shadow of Westminster Abbey, Westminster School has been educating boys since it was founded in 1560 by Queen Elizabeth I to provide lessons for 40 poor scholars. It has evolved since then—its 750 pupils now include some girls, and with fees of £39,252 a year for boarders and £27,174 for day pupils, poor scholars are thin on the ground—but for nearly half a millennium, these historical premises defined its geographical limits.
That is about to change. A ground-breaking ceremony on April 9th marked the start of the construction of Westminster Chengdu, the first stage in a venture with a local partner, Hong Kong Melodious Education Technology Group. The school is due to open in September 2020 and will have 2,500 pupils from the ages of 3 to 18. It will be followed by a further five establishments of a similar size in other Chinese cities over the next ten years, by the end of which Westminster will be educating 20 times as many children in China as in the heart of London.
A slice of the Chinese operation’s income will flow back to the mother ship, enabling Westminster to increase the share of pupils on bursaries in Britain from around 5% to 20%. “It will give us a revenue stream that will allow us to go back to our roots,” says Rodney Harris, deputy headmaster in London, who...