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Last Updated: Tuesday, 12 June 2007, 14:15 GMT 15:15 UK
State school draws foreign pupils
By Gary Eason
Education editor, BBC News website

Czech student Sasha
Sasha hopes to study for a medicine degree in the UK
A state comprehensive school in England is taking in pupils from other countries who want to follow its International Baccalaureate course.

Ten of the 36 students starting the IB Diploma at The Ridings High School in Bristol this September are from abroad.

Some have moved to England with their families, but most just want to take advantage of an English education.

IB courses in private schools abroad can cost thousands of pounds - but as a state school, Ridings High has no fees.

It has one of the largest sixth forms in the South West, with 347 students.

It began offering the IB this year, with 10 students in the first cohort.

The move was made ahead of the government's announcement that it wanted all state pupils in every region of England to have the chance to study the IB.

The Ridings High also has a strong tradition of forging international links.

Visitors

This week, for instance, two dozen youngsters from Singapore are visiting the drama department.

This is the whole spirit of the EU, isn't it, that we have this free movement of people
Teacher Rob Ford
The current IB students have themselves raised enough money to bring another group over from Siberia.

The head of the school's international section, Rob Ford, said that last week history students were discussing the Holocaust with contemporaries in the United States, via video link.

The school's reputation was such that it was natural for students overseas to want to study there.

"This is what is attracting these students into our school," he said.

"One of the cachets for us is that we are offering the IB for free." Elsewhere it could cost "a fortune".

University goal

Those due to start the two-year IB Diploma course next term come from the Philippines, Sweden, France and the US, among others.

They include 17-year-old Sasha Hrachovcova, from the Czech Republic. She is currently visiting to brush up on her English, which she has been studying since she was seven.

Had she been in a Czech state school she could not have done the IB, she said, and the qualifications would not be recognised elsewhere in the world.

In fact, she has been attending a private college, which does offer the IB.

But her aim is to study medicine at a British university, for which entry is highly competitive.

She looked at the number of people accepted from abroad and felt her chances of getting in would be bolstered if she had been in an English sixth form.

"I will have a higher chance to do that, being here," she said.

'EU spirit'

Sasha is sharing a rented house with her sister and another Czech.

She says it would be difficult for most people in her country to afford this, but paying for her to be in England shows the value her parents attach to her education.

Mr Ford said the parents balanced it against the cost of a private education in Prague.

"The family are complete Anglophiles," he said.

Sasha's sister did her IB at home and has now completed a degree and postgraduate course in international law at the University of the West of England. She is about to continue her studies in Hamburg, Germany.

Mr Ford described her as "a brilliant advert for her country".

"This is the whole spirit of the EU, isn't it, that we have this free movement of people," Mr Ford added.

It was no different to British-born youngsters whose families had moved to France or Spain going to school there, or older students pursuing Erasmus university exchange programmes.

"This is the 21st Century."




SEE ALSO
Harder A-levels and boost for IB
30 Nov 06 |  Education
Schools' first terms with the IB
29 Jan 07 |  Education
Another two schools offer the IB
17 Aug 06 |  Education

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