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12 November 2019
by Ferdinand Steinbeis


Not too many Germans, please!

Hello from Oxfordshire!
Today, I’d like to address an issue that has been irking us at von Bulow Education for a good while.
It’s the Germans.
Yes, the many, many Germans at British boarding schools that apparently all other Germans are at pains to avoid like the plague.
Let me explain - when we meet with German families for consultations, we can be almost certain to hear a version of the following:
“...oh, and please make sure to recommend schools with as few Germans as possible!”.
I understand the concern. You send your child to a very expensive school abroad and at the very least want him/her to come away speaking fluent English, right? The mental arithmetic is simple: the more Germans, the less likely my child is to speak English, the less fluent he/she will be coming back. Mission failed!
Hold on. I don’t think that finding a school with no or very few Germans is either realistic nor the solution.
Let me explain why.
Bedale's Art and Design building
There will always be Germans. And quite a few too.
Here is a quick calculation.
German pupils are the second biggest international group after Chinese pupils at British boarding schools. According to the Independent School Council 1650 German pupils with parents living overseas attended a British boarding school in 2018.
With the lionshare of these pupils going to the roughly 200 boarding schools that fit the generally desired search criteria, this makes for eight German pupils per school on average.
Some will of course have more, some less. But the key take-away is that there will be at least a handful of German pupils at every school. Moreover, there will be a concentration of Germans in Y11, the German 10th grade, when all of Germany is looking for educational adventures abroad. It is thus impossible to avoid them completely.
So much for the “needing to be realistic” - part.
Epsom School's art department.
My experience from Sevenoaks School - it really, really doesn’t matter.
Back in the 90’s, I went to Sevenoaks School.
During my time there, I shared this amazing school with 35 other German-speaking pupils across two year groups. So, loads of them!
And yes, we hung out together, initially at least: for the first few weeks we were insecure. Self-conscious about our dilettante Engish. Seeking the familiar in an unfamiliar environment.
But this quickly changed. As we all started to feel more at home, we all gravitated towards pupils we shared common interests with. We made friends playing football, playing in bands, being on stage in theatre plays or simply hanging out being careless youngsters in one of the nicest places on earth.
Or simply sharing rooms! At one point I shared a room with a Ghanaian, a South Korean and an Italian. I was recently best man at two of their weddings. We are best friends to this day.
My point?
Whatever you do, at UK boarding schools you will have a hard time NOT becoming good friends with non-Germans-speaking pupils. It’s simply how these places work.
By getting involved in school life and being a little open to new people and experiences, spending time with “all those Germans” will get rather boring rather quickly.
Yours, Ferdinand Steinbeis

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Von Bülow Education
Harwell Innovation Center
173 Curie Avenue, Harwell
Oxford, OX11 0QG

Tel: +44 (0) 1235 838540
Email: info@buloweducation.com