Chinese firms buying out British schools that are under financial stress; Ploy to expand Chinese influence over Britain’s education system, investigation reveals

| SamvadaWorld Staff
  • Hundreds of independent schools which are under financial stress after the impact of coronavirus pandemic are being targeted by Chinese investors
  • Nine of the 17 schools under Chinese control are owned by firms whose founders or bosses are among China’s most senior Communist Party members;
  • Schools are using educational tools for teaching children a ‘whitewashed’ view of China
  • One firm admitted its acquisition of British schools is aimed at supporting China’s controversial Belt And Road strategy, which aims to expand Beijing’s global influence.
  • This is not a new phenomenon as it was reported way back in 2015 that Chinese investors were buying Britain’s schools.
  • Neither the British government nor the opposition saw the threat from such buying of schools.
  • Will the British take control of their schools back? Brexit Party founder Nigel Farage and Conservative MP Tom Tugendhat have raised their voices on the issue but there has been no official response from the British government over the revelations of the Daily Mail investigation

Hundreds of independent schools which are under financial stress after the impact of the coronavirus pandemic are being targeted by Chinese investors, an investigation by The Daily Mail has revealed.

As per the findings of the investigation, it is anticipated Chinese firms are on a buying frenzy and that these firms are owned by high-ranking members of the ruling Chinese Communist Party. The intent is to expand Chinese influence over Britain’s education system, say experts part of the investigative report.

Seventeen schools are already owned by Chinese companies, but that number is set to rocket says the Daily Mail report. Amid rising concern about Beijing’s tentacles reaching into British classrooms, an investigation by Daily Mail reveals:

  • Nine of the 17 schools under Chinese control are owned by firms whose founders or bosses are among China’s most senior Communist Party members;
  • Princess Diana’s preparatory school is owned by a Chinese group that openly trades on her name;
  • Schools are using educational tools for teaching children a ‘whitewashed’ view of China;
  • One firm admitted its acquisition of British schools is aimed at supporting China’s controversial Belt And Road strategy, which aims to expand Beijing’s global influence.

The buying of British schools was first reported in 2015 which has continued all these years. However, the financial stress brought by the pandemic gave fillip to the buying spree. Many independent schools are facing a funding crisis, enrolments have plummeted and fees have been slashed because pupils are learning from home because of the pandemic.

Last year, Chinese firms bought three schools, including Abbots Bromley School near Lichfield, Staffordshire, which had been forced to close its doors in 2019.

CCP at the helm of the game?

A key player in the game of buying out British Schools is Bright Scholar, which bought a number of schools and colleges in 2018 and 2019, including Bournemouth Collegiate School, St Michael’s School in Llanelli, Carmarthanshire – where Justice Secretary Robert Buckland and singer Cerys Matthews were once pupils – and Bosworth Independent College in Northampton.

Bright Scholar is owned by Yang Huiyan, who is reportedly worth £20 billion, making her Asia’s richest woman, and was founded by her father Yang Guoqiang, a member of the Communist Party’s highest- ranking advisory council.

Ms Yang, 39, is the boss of Country Garden Group, Bright Scholar’s parent company. Two independent schools – Bedstone College in Shropshire and Ipswich High School – are owned by a fund backed by the Chinese Wanda Group. Wang Jianlin founder of Wanda Group served in the PLA for 17 years and had served as deputy to the 17th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party. Wang maintains a close relationship with the Chinese Communist Party to this day.

Two more schools – Kingsley School in Bideford, Devon, and Heathfield Knoll School in Worcestershire – are owned by China First Capital Group, which has senior Communist Party members on its board.

Others bought by Chinese firms include Thetford Grammar School in Norfolk, which was attended by Thomas Paine, Wisbech Grammar in Cambridgeshire and Riddlesworth Hall Preparatory School in Norfolk, where Princess Diana was taught. Riddlesworth was bought by the Confucius International Education Group in 2015 and its website lauds its links with the late Princess.

The firm’s owner, Kong Lingtao, who claims to be a direct descendant of the Chinese philosopher Confucius, also boasts of his visit to Buckingham Palace in 2014, when he met Prince Philip.

Another company, Ray Education Group, bought Adcote School for Girls near Shrewsbury, Shropshire, and Myddelton College in Denbigh, Wales, in 2018. On its website, Ray Education details plans to use its British schools to help expand to other countries as part of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s Belt And Road strategy to boost China’s global economic and political influence.

Ray Education’s chief executive, James Hu, who is a secretary of the Communist Party’s Hongkou district committee, said: ‘Adcote School for Girls and Myddelton College are part of our global campus plan.’

He added: ‘We have already set up three Adcote schools and two franchised Myddelton Colleges in China within two years and we have plans to bring the two brands to other regions and countries in the near future.’

Not a new phenomenon!

Buying British schools is not new as it was very well known way back in 2015 that Chinese investors had started to acquire independent schools in Britain. However, the background of the investors or their relationship with the CCP was not under scrutiny.

A 2015 news report in the Daily Mail showed that investors from the Far East had started buying up British private schools. But the reason stated was that more Chinese families wanted their children to be educated in the UK and the Chinese investors were only catering to the demand of the Chinese families.  

The purchases appear to be motivated as a safe financial investment, with many private schools welcoming the opportunity for a much needed injection of cash, said the report. Chase Grammar School is one of the latest British private schools to be bought up by Chinese investors.

The Staffordshire based school, which charges as much as £36,000 for boarding pupils and  £11,000 a year for day pupils, was bought by Achieve Education. Chinese owned companies use intermediaries, often agencies, to negotiate a deal for the school sale, according to The Times.

Chase Grammar has 300 pupils and claims that its small class sizes mean that ‘teachers and students know each other very well.’ ‘The demand in China is there,’ Tong Zhou, a director of Chase Grammar said, empathising that Chinese students are now choosing to go to both a secondary school and university in Britain.

Peers Carter, founder of the School Transfer Company had said ‘There’s a terrific amount of interest from Chinese, Singaporeans, Filipinos, Indians, Hong Kong and Pakistan.’

The threat of the Chinese takeover and the hidden intent was not clear as it was now. For example, Saray Inzani, publisher of Totally UK speaking to the Daily Mail had said  ‘British history is a big pull and the Chinese have a surprisingly sophisticated understanding of it’, giving a favorable view of the phenomenon.

Neither the British government nor the opposition saw the threat from such buying of schools. The parliament neither discussed the issue nor brought in any law to stop such takeover of financially stressed schools. The result, 6 years down the line has been catastrophic for the British school system.

Will the British fight back?

After the Daily Mail investigative report, Brexit Party founder Nigel Farage wrote on the issue of Chinese firms buying British schools in the same paper.  

In an article titled ‘A Communist takeover of our schools that Britain must end at once’, Nigel Farage writes, “The world is being taken over by stealth by the Chinese Communist Party. Under a neo-colonial project, President Xi Jinping hopes to achieve global economic domination via massive international investments.”

“It extends way beyond buying up mineral assets or Western telecommunication systems. There’s a cultural dimension that reeks of propaganda and indoctrination”, he wrote.

He urges that the Britain’s government must wake up to the dangers and act quickly given that it was now known that Chinese companies directly linked to the highest ranks of the Communist Party have financial interests in Britain’s schools.

He notes that private schools were at higher risk as fees have risen rapidly over the last two decades and have become unaffordable to all but the richest. “As a result, such schools – especially those with borders – are reliant on Chinese students to help balance the books. Since 2014, a network of Chinese companies has been quietly buying up struggling establishments”, he writes.

Writing on China spreading its propaganda through the so-called Confucius Institutes, he notes that these Institutes are under the control of the Chinese government and its students are taught a grossly sanitised version of Chinese history and politics.

“No mention is made of the plight of the Uighur Muslims or the eradication of democracy in Hong Kong. It is a supreme irony that one school, Thetford Grammar in Norfolk, is now in the hands of Hong Kong-based China Financial Services Holdings”, he highlights in the article.  

He alleges that successive British governments have been too pro-China for too long. “With the integrity of the education of thousands of British children at stake, Education Secretary Gavin Williamson must address this as a matter of urgency”, he urges.

Conservative MP Tom Tugendhat, chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, had said: ‘China’s strategic understanding and reach means that they have an advantage in seeking to influence others and using established brands, including some of our own, to achieve that position.

‘We need to decide what it is we are prepared to defend, but before that we would need to understand what it is we want’, he said.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said last month the Government is reviewing the role of Confucius Institutes, which are under scrutiny in other Western countries. There has been no official response from the British government over the investigation or the allegations that the government is sleeping over the Chinese threat. 

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