British schools prepare for influx of American students
RAF MILDENHALL — When the closure of London Central High School was announced last fall, many parents were apprehensive about the prospect of placing their kids in British schools.
In the upper grades, the English education system varies widely from the American structure, with different graduation requirements and a lack of topics such as U.S. history and politics.
But with few options available due to the remote location of RAFs Fairford and Croughton, some independent British schools near the U.S. air bases have made efforts to accommodate the potential influx of American students, adding everything from Thanksgiving celebrations to new American Studies curricula.
At Kingham Hill School near Chipping Norton in Oxfordshire, for example, educators are attempting to develop a program to provide American students with a certificate ensuring they are proficient in subjects traditionally covered at U.S. schools, said Steve King, head of marketing and public relations for the school.
“What we’ve done instead of hurrying [students] through the international baccalaureate is to look into this American discipline,” he said.
The exact makeup of the study program has yet to be set because England currently has no accredited program specifically to administer to U.S. students like those from London Central, King said.
“We’re trying to do something rather new and pioneering,” he said.
Some of the staff who will help create and administer the initiative are already on board, he said, including a coordinator, a U.S. history teacher who also will coach basketball and a science teacher from the States.
At Rendcomb College, not far from Croughton and Fairford, headmaster Gerry Holden said his school also plans to hire a counselor specifically to help American students bridge gaps between their English and American educations as they move toward college.
“We are going to appoint what we’re calling a ‘link coordinator,’ ” Holden said. In addition, like Kingham Hill, Rendcomb is looking to generally add expertise to its staff in U.S. curricula-oriented subjects. It will also boost its attention to American cultural favorites, such as sports and holidays, school officials said.
“I imagine next fall we will be celebrating Thanksgiving,” Holden said.
Given the number of American students some schools are expecting, a fair number also may be calling for a certain Thursday in November to be a holiday.
Rendcomb, for instance, which has about 360 students between its junior and senior schools, is expecting about 20 American students to enroll, while Kingham Hill’s 380 students may see up to 35 U.S. children join their ranks, school officials said.
Officials at the Bloxham school, northwest of RAF Croughton, said several American students have enrolled in recent months. More are expected to enroll at the 420-student school next fall, an administrator said.
In addition to academic support, Bloxham, Rendcomb and Kingham Hill also said they will arrange bus transportation for U.S. students.
Fees at the Kingham Hill and Rendcomb — which cost up to around $30,000 annually for day students — also haven’t been an issue for U.S. parents, Holden and King said. American families’ non-Department of Defense Dependents Schools tuition assistance — on a system mandated by the State Department — has been enough to cover the cost, the school spokesmen said.