Running international private schools is a lucrative business. Now they have their eye on free schools in England.
Market size is predicted to nearly double by 2021. The number of international schools is forecast to reach 10,615 in 2021 from just over 5,800 now. Student number are expected to reach 5.2m from 2.8m and staff to just under half a million from 272,000 in 2011. Fee income, thought to be just under $27b in 2011, is set to rise to $49b in 2020, on a current fees basis.
The Third International Business Forum for International and Private Schools takes place in London on 23-24 November 2011. The main theme is ‘How do you successfully develop your school brand overseas?’ Speakers include Ralph Tabberer, who was the Director General of Schools in the Department for Children, Schools and Families until March 2009 before going through the revolving door into the private sector, becoming Chief Schools Officer at GEMS Education, based in Dubai. GEMS runs dozens of private schools around the world, including 10 in England. Also speaking are Andrew Fitzmaurice, the Chief Executive of Nord Anglia Education, heavily involved in edubusiness in England, and Steve Bolingbroke of Kunskapsskolan, the Swedish for-profit free school chain now operating in England.
Of course developing your brand can be tricky, as no doubt Alistair Bond Headmaster, The British School, Tripoli, Libya, will explain in his talk on ‘Civil unrest – the experience’. How much safer to do it in England. The most interesting thing about the conference is that one session is entitled ‘The trials and frustrations of early entry into the Free Schools market’. The speaker is James Croft Director, the Centre for Market Reform of Education. He is the author of a report published earlier this year by the Adam Smith Institute called Profit-making free schools.
In short, the for-profit international schools companies are examining the opportunity for making profits from Gove’s publicly-funded free schools.