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Advice on starting an international/British school in Warsaw, Poland

29 Apr 2015 #1
Dear All,

Does anyone have any tips (general or specific) on starting international / british schools in warsaw, poland? I am interested in the areas of :

1) Funding from banks, EU or other investors in Poland
2) Finding land
3) Regulations

I would like to offer a heavy focus on :

1) musical education
2) art and sculpture education
3) multilinguality (Polish, English, French, German, Japanese, Chinese)
4) wide range of games & athletics, swimming and other sports
4) lead up to the French Bacc before university


Roger5 1 | 1,455
29 Apr 2015 #2
My tip is this: if you are intending to invest millions in a school, don't ask for "tips" on internet forums.
Atch 17 | 4,112
29 Apr 2015 #3
You seem to be talking about a secondary school? I imagine it would be very hard to get any significant government funding for a private school. If you're talking about finding land, then presumably you would be looking at building. Rather over ambitious I would say. As for regulations etc your best bet is probably to contact the British Council in Warsaw or similar. Starting a school of the size and scope you're suggesting is a massive undertaking and seems very unrealistic but you might be able to start something very small and expand.
Mark_the_teache 1 | 7
3 May 2015 #4
Starting small certainly sounds like an option however I was thinking about possibilities of getting sufficient funding to a build a medium sized steiner/montessori/private Swiss/British style school.

I know there is a large amount of demand for school places on this kind in Poland.. I wondered if I could get investment funding for a project that would be bound to be successful..

Regarding the this forum not being ideal for getting answers to the questions, where would you suggest I go to ask?
Atch 17 | 4,112
3 May 2015 #5
'Bound to be successful' is a big claim Mark. Can you demonstrate this to potential investors in a business plan? Also, unless they're philanthropists, what's in it for them financially? They will want a return on their investment. A Steiner school is a no-no. You'll never find enough teachers trained in the Steiner method, and it doesn't extend to secondary level. The Montessori approach does, but generally only works well with children who've gone through the Montessori elementary system first and have the level of independent learning skills, literacy and numeracy to pursue a Montessori curriculum. I'm a Montessori teacher myself by the way. Anyway Montessori schools are supposed to be based in rural areas and incorporate either a farm or co-operative business venture for the students to run, and they are ideally boarding schools. A wooly idea of a Montessori/Steiner type school is not a good starting point for a business. But anyway, why don't you sit down and work out a proper budget and see what this project would actually cost. I think you'll be mildly horrified to tell you the truth.
Mark_the_teache 1 | 7
3 May 2015 #6
Thanks Atch and scottie..I checked out esl cafe.. interesting site..although probably more oriented towards ESL. Let me clarify what I'm getting at a bit bitter..

My experience on teaching methodologies is as ff:

Montessori : student focused, farm/nature focused, generally not much
Steiner : I tried one of my kids in one and was not impressed. Too dogmatic. It felt like a cult.
Nevertheless, I did like the student/emotional focus.
British international : I went to one myself. Very curriculum focused leading up to university
entering A and O Levels (now GCSE's). Extremely international.
Diplomats etc.
Canadian international : My children go to a school like this in Poland. This one's main selling
point (and it is full with waiting lists) is bilingual (Polish/English) and
dual (Polish and Canadian) curriculums. It enables kids to avoid public.
Negatives are too much homework, too little contact with nature, too
much grade pressure, not
enough art, music, emotional development, sport facilities (swimming,
athletics, field games etc) and student focus.
Polish Public : My wife and her extended family all went to these. Kids put down. Discouraged
to dream. Heavy curriculum focus. Rote memorizing. Creativity and Risk
taking discouraged.

My dream
1)Create my own teaching method (stealing the best from the above teaching methodologies) with the following principles :

student focus,
heaving art and music focus,
heavy reading focus,
heavy focus on connecting all teaching to practical applications
heavy sports, team games and athletics focus,
heavy multilingual focus
heavy creativity focus
low to nil homework to encourage play
low to nil grade emphasis
Nursery to university entrance exams (French bacc probably)
Scholarships and grants

2) Raise funding to build the school

3) Estimated cost 10-20 million ztly. Investment return via profits from fees after costs. (to be defined in business plan).... Does not horrify me.

May be unrealistic, but one can always dream and "try". All I loose is my time in the process. Most great successes were held back by negative thoughts..
4 May 2015 #7
Witam! How the h...l could Eslcafe help???? It is for those teaching ESL in language schools ;). Good luck, Mark, with your project but it is going to be most difficult, if feasible in Poland.
Atch 17 | 4,112
5 May 2015 #8
Mark there's nothing wrong with having a dream as long as you temper it with common sense, realism and a bit of humility. Otherwise it's destined to remain only a dream and never become a reality.

To get back to your original query about funding, Roger5 was right that you won't get the info you need on any internet forum. The kind of information you need is simply not widely available to the public. The first thing you need to do is to write to the Polish ministry of education, just a brief letter stating your interest in possibly establishing a school and asking for information about funding and regulations. Bear in mind that they are unlikely to have anything prepared on paper which they can send you so they may simply ignore your letter. Depending on their response, or lack of it, you should write again and request a meeting. I strongly advise you at this initial stage, not to suggest a school ranging from pre-school to secondary as this concept will be way too much for them to grasp. Keep it simple. Choose either a primary/elementary or secondary. Bear in mind that pre-schools may come under a completely separate funding/regulatory scheme. In Ireland for example pre-schools are funded by the Dept of Health and Children, not by the Dept of Education.

As for banks, unless you have a very impressive background in education, or a partner with such, and an equally impressive business plan, it's very unlikely that they will back you. If you had money of your own to invest or if another investor was willing to back you, they might risk matching what you're putting in but you will not get millions out of any bank to fund your Utopian vision of a child-centred school.

I'm not sure what your teaching background is, but I sense a lack of solid training and experience. Mark, it is simply not possible to invent your own teaching methodology by cobbling together the best bits of several existing ones, not least because many educational philosophies which have similarities to each other, always have fundamental differences which make them diametrically opposed to each other and they simply do not work together. You're also talking about a vague, ill-formed concept of a child centred philosophy which you want to carry through from ages 3 to 18. Mark, it takes a lifetime of work with hundreds of children if not thousands of children to create such a thing. These things evolve over many years. They can't be created by building a beautiful campus and then saying 'ok children, here's your Paradise, go and flourish'. If you were an experienced teacher you would know this.

You mentioned a 'medium' sized school but then say you want to incorporate a pre-school, primary and secondary. Look, I've been teaching children for nearly twenty years and I've seen first-hand, just as an ordinary teacher, the practical difficulties of managing and funding even a relatively small school (the smallest I taught in was a State primary school with only 100 children). You're effectively talking about setting up, managing and funding three schools at once. You need suitably qualified and experienced staff for each and a director/principal for each but that's the least of your worries. How many children in each and how many staff? What will the fees be and what will the staffing costs be? Schools are not generally profit-making businesses and the possibility of repaying millions in loans/giving investors a profit-share whilst still covering your running costs is most unlikekly.

Here's an example of how people really do these things. The Hershey Montessori school in the USA is one of the few in America that offers Montessori through from pre-school to secondary. It started in 1978 with just a pre-school and finally added the secondary level over 20 years later. It's non-profit making. Another example is the first Montessori secondary school in America, the Montessori Farm School. It was founded by Dr Ursula Thrush in the 1970s, only after she'd established a pre-school and primary/elementary school and they had become fully self-funding with no grants or state assistance. Although she was an amazing educator neither the secondary nor the elementary schools survived although the pre-school she founded still remains.

So Mark, what I'm saying is, modify your dreams somewhat, reduce the scale of the proposed project to manageable size, read about what other people have done and how they've gone about creating their schools, learn from the experiences of others. When you have a realistic plan and a good tight business plan, then give it a go by all means.
5 May 2015 #9
Mark the teacher, how many international schools are there in Poland? Do you know how much revenue they are pulling in?

Atch, nice essay mate :)

What he needs to do is understand the market and figure out if there is room for him to make money.
Atch 17 | 4,112
5 May 2015 #10
Yes, Yogabbagabba, of course that's the business plan bit and the venture must demonstrate to potential investors that it can be financially successful. Indeed a good many of my comments have pointed that out to him already. If you'd read my 'essay' and other comments attentively young man you would have noticed this. However, the guy says he has a 'dream' and he's idealistic about education, so I, as an experienced teacher, who shares his passion for a child-centred approach, was addressing some of those issues.

By the way if you want some hard figures, I did a bit of googling and pretty quickly found reliable stats from 2003. At that time the Polish government was willing to grant around 200PLN per month, per child to private schools. On average they were contributing between 20 and 40 per cent of running costs. It's very basic stuff really. Fees, minus staffing, loan repayments for the initial building and equipping costs, insurance, rates, utilities,wear and tear to equipment, building maintenance, ongoing development and expansion. Can he make a living? End of story.

The educational philosophy bit is a completely separate issue but it's a relevant one because parents at an expensive private school generally expect their children to be prepared for further education,often regardless of the child's academic ability. If he's trying to deliver core subjects to a level that will gain good results in public exams, but envisages a no homework policy and minimal grading system in his school, he really needs to know whathe's at, otherwise his school can go down the tubes pretty quickly.
5 May 2015 #11
Witam! A good idea would be to contact Montessori and Steiner programs around the world and first of all they would probably be able to say whether such project is feasible in Poland. Checking with Polish Ministry of Education like someone said is completely useless. Ministry of Education won't say what to do it and how to get money. First of all, need to have a concrete and realistic busines plan in order to approach investors. Personally I believe there are enough so called international schools in Poland/Warsaw and most Poles are not ready for "different" educational approach. In Poland, they believe in memorizing things and tons of homework and don't believe in developing critical thinking.
Atch 17 | 4,112
5 May 2015 #12
May the Lord give me patience and strength! Two separate issues: funding, educational philosophy. First Issue: The Polish Ministry of Education will give funding to private schools so it's worth contacting them. If he never asks them for money, they won't give him any. Second issue: decide on an ethos for school. Choose an approach, find teachers trained in it. Bob's your uncle!
5 May 2015 #13
you are very naive if you think that the Ministry of Education shall give funding when there is not even money for public schools. Polish parents for instance need to buy books in public schools (in western countries, books are free).
Atch 17 | 4,112
5 May 2015 #14
Well, in Ireland where I am, and where the government is quite generous, state funded schools don't provide free books. There is a book rental scheme and children pay a contribution for art and craft materials, photocopying etc. I agree that it's most unlikely that the Polish government would contribute funds for setting up a private school but they certainly did provide captitation grants for established private schools back in 2003. If Mark contacts them he can find out if that's still the case.
5 May 2015 #15
Where I come from (Western Europe), books are provided for free and parents can have scholarships for their kids as of the age of 11. I know for sure that in Belgium some years ago (still now?) all supplies (including pencils, pens, notebooks..) were provided free of charge. I got shoked when I found out that Polish parents had to pay for books....
Vox - | 175
5 May 2015 #16
Gosc 1234... There is no such thing as a free lunch or books.
5 May 2015 #17
you are very naive if you think that the Ministry of Education shall give funding when there is not even money for public schools.

I can tell you from personal experience that MEN does give funding to some private schools here.
Mark_the_teache 1 | 7
8 May 2015 #18
All, thank you so much for your advice thus far. I will keep you posted on progress.. Ultimately I want a school that encourages children to find their "dreams" and pursue them. This is something that is glaringly missing in most educational methods.

I hope to contribute to the emergence of a generation of happy, contributing, confident adults each working in their areas of passion.
teargas - | 71
8 May 2015 #19
Mark, as a specialist in so-called early years education in Poland, I can tell you about one major problem with your idea.

The parents.

Parents that have cash to afford private schools in Poland mostly want their children to be high performers. They don't particularly care about the happiness of their child or their dreams, but they really care about being able to boast to their friends that little Amelia got straight A's last semester and that she also has extra horse riding and ballet classes.

I understand completely what you wish for, but your dreams might actually be best realised by opening a small democratic school, although these also have significant problems relating to the law and funding.

If you want, I'd be willing to have a chat with you about these things. I love your vision, but I'm just not convinced that Polish parents care about their child's happiness.
8 May 2015 #20
@Vox: in some countries, they use tax money to for instance buy school supplies whereas other countries spend tax money on stupid things (= political choice)

@Harry; Yes, the ministry of Education gives some money to SOME schools like you say and of course those are schools 100% matching Ministry of Education's view on education (perfect little soldiers, memorizing tons of things, which is the total opposite of what author of post has in mind).

@Teargas: 100% ok with you. Like you say, the big majority of parents sending their kids to private schools expect their kids to be perfect in all subjects and to take classes in everything outside of school. I've seen some kids not having 1 hour off per day, always doing sometthing as they have to get nothing but 6's in all subjects, take English, French, piano, tennis, ballet.... lessons. Those kids are Under a lot of pressure and are often depressive. Such parents are unfortunately the big majoirty of Polish parents and most probably too few parents would choose a school like what the author of the post has in mind and thefeore not profitable. Poland is not the place for such schools.

@Teargas: how realistic you are! I agree with you 100% :)
teargas - | 71
8 May 2015 #21
@Harry; Yes, the ministry of Education gives some money to SOME schools like you say and of course those are schools 100% matching Ministry of Education's view on education.

Actually, not quite. The rules are quite flexible, as the Ministry only requires that the school programmes are followed, which are silent on the matter of rote learning vs creative thinking. How you follow it is rather up to the teacher. All State exams these days require far more logical thinking than rote learning, and good private and public schools follow that. The issue is rather related to the lack of funded hours, which forces teachers in poorly funded gminas into following "the book" rather than the programme as it's the only way to make sure that the programme has been broadly covered in case of inspection.

There's definitely an approved Montessori programme for primary schools, so there's no reason why creative thinking can't be taught. Montessori has her own problems with the method (particularly as puberty is starting earlier and earlier), but alternative educational models can be approved in Poland.

The lack of homework and grades would immediately turn off many of these parents, regardless of how good the education actually is. Unfortunately, the parents with the most money are the most demanding, and this is what would ruin the OP's vision.
8 May 2015 #22
I agree with you re lack of grades and homework. Parents in Poland expect their kids to spend several hours on homework every night. I know of lot of those kids from private schools, they never rest, they are exhausted and the parents keep demanding and demanding. Polish kids in general are not happy and often are very depressed. I wonder what kind of adults they'll turn to... In some cases, we could call that "child abuse".

As to public money, since Poland is not a rich country, better not to count too much on it and to privilege private money, which also makes sence ;)
9 May 2015 #23
I think as long as Mark has confidence in the plan, can put together a good team and promises to deliver results then there is no reason why he can't succeed. Passion and belief will be the main driving force I hope.

I say start small and focus on developing a sound reputation for your school. Be clear on your value offering and know what success looks like for everybody.

Mark, it would be very prudent to find a partner with experience in running this kind of operation so you can focus more on the teaching.

All the best.
11 May 2015 #24
Perhaps out of some misguided empathy, I offer you some free advice after stumbling across this post.

Around the world there are people who have dedicated a lifetime to educational improvement and service to children and their families so you would have to prove why an organisation should entrust their money to you. I suggest you do the hard yards and sacrifice your own time, sweat and money into your dream, small as it may be and create a working model of the curriculum envisioned so as to demonstrate its success to both investors and parents.

As far as Poland is concerned, judging the system by the yard stick of "when my wife went to school" is not a standard argument so for evaluation purposes data would be more useful.

The Polish context is important for structure etc but when it comes to aspirational parents paying private fees, these share much in common around the world. They are the customer and at the end of the day you work for them, so balance between passion for your own beliefs and where they sit on their parenting journey is required. On another note, vague generalisations are not helpful, for example, clarify what indicates "happiness" given that it sounds a lot like the failed US positivism/self esteem movement. Perhaps you could look at starting a parent advocacy group which petitions to have certain core ideas incorporated into curriculum and teaching practice.

As far as the Polish public system, the achievements made in the last 25 years have been applauded worldwide and although it has a way to go, there is an awakening of the need for continued improvement and plans afoot to address the issues. Perhaps rather than speculating about the Ministry's views of curriculum move beyond the disgruntled rhetoric and throw yourself into reading some journal articles, researching policy announcements and investigating teacher training trends, or you may find this system is evolving beyond your scope.
13 Dec 2016 #25
I find it hugely ironic that Mark has left out subjects like math and science from his curriculum... just like logical, rational thought, critical thinking, a practical step-by-step approach to his "dream," and finally the hard numbers, appear to have been left out of his business plan.

Gosh. It's almost as if math skills ARE important in life, after all...
13 Dec 2016 #26

In the US, both private and public schools demand students pay for their books.

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