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UK schools visit Saudi to establish satellites

Representatives from the UK’s K-12 and early years sectors are visiting Saudi Arabia this week on a trade mission, as more independent schools set up franchises in the country.

Stakeholders from private and international schools and the early years sector are spending five days in the Middle Eastern country to engage with government ministries, hold policy roundtables and meet with global investors.

Five UK independent schools, including Chatsworth Schools’ Beech Hall School Riyadh and King’s College Taunton, have opened new branches or ‘satellite schools’ in Saudi Arabia since 2021, following an initial trade mission in that same year.

Saudi Arabia is home to approximately seven million school-age children – the largest K-12 student population in the Gulf Cooperation Council area – and enrolment in private education is expected to grow significantly over the next decade.

David Rose, director at Brookes Education Group, said the school group had been exploring potential partnerships in Saudi Arabia “for some time”, including looking at opportunities for school start-ups that extend “beyond the expat community”.

“Saudi Arabia’s current emphasis on transforming their education system into a connected and creative approach which prepares their young people for the modern world while preserving their own identity, language, traditions and culture makes it an attractive opportunity,” Rose said.

The country has been identified as a priority region in the UK’s international education strategy. Saudi Arabia’s vision 2030, which sets out plans to diversify the economy and reform its international standing, prioritises the development of an education system that aligns with market needs.

Jamie Large, director of international education at Ardingly College, said the boarding school had been “very active” in the country since 2021 and was planning to “move fast” to open a franchise in 2024.

It comes as negotiations continue for a free trade agreement between the UK and the Gulf Cooperation Council, with the third round of talks kicking off this week in Riyadh.

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