Public Schools lure rich Russians: Gordonstoun is among the private educators laying out their stall in Moscow - but not for children of the mafia

IN a shabby classroom at Moscow University, a group of Russians gathered round an English headmaster last week to hear about the family atmosphere at his school, watch a video of pupils at work, prayer and play, and hear about the experiences of 18 Russian children already boarding there.

A new generation of rich Russians are educating their children at British public schools - and an organisation called Albion, a group of five prep schools and five boarding schools (including Gordonstoun where Prince Charles was educated), is running a programme to give children of the old Soviet empire access to the elite system that once helped to underpin the British empire.

By the end of the evening in the Moscow classroom, two mothers had signed up their children for Oakley Hall, Cirencester. The headmaster, John Rawlinson, thinks he will have about 30 new clients by the end of his latest recruitment trip.

'I want my Lena to have opportunities which I never had,' said Tatyana Kolosova, one of the mothers who signed a contract with the school.

Mrs Kolosova, dressed in a red silk suit and wearing diamond rings and a gold bracelet, was not put off by the fees of dollars 5,500 ( pounds 3,700) per term - it costs dollars 7,000 for a senior school pupil - though they are a fortune for the average Russian who earns the equivalent of dollars 100 to dollars 200 per month.

Mrs Kolosova is the manager of the main book shop in Tver, just north of Moscow, and her husband has a powerful job involving building and transport. She denies they are super-rich. 'We have a four-room flat and a dacha, but then who does not have a dacha in Russia?' Her husband drives a Mercedes and she goes to work in a second-hand Opel.

'We are working hard and creatively,' she said. 'My husband works 18 hours a day. We are just spending what we have legally earned. We think education is the best investment. To anyone who envies us I can only say, 'May you all work as hard as us and have what we have.' ' There is more than hard work behind some Russians' wealth, however. Some very rich people in Russia today are gangsters, a fact of which Mr Rawlinson and the other headmasters in the Albion organisation are well aware.

The organisation, which has a former British naval attache on its staff, says it screens out the mafia, though it will not go into details about how this is done. 'Let's just say I've met a lot of parents, and you develop an eye,' said Mr Rawlinson.

One family with underworld links was rejected by Oakley Hall but has been accommodated at another British school. 'I had better not say where . . .' said Mr Rawlinson.

Rodney Atwood, headmaster of Box Hill School near Dorking, where seven Russian children are receiving education as a perk from the oil firm that employs their parents, has not yet come across the mafia. 'If I say the problem hasn't arisen, it probably sounds frightfully glib but it really hasn't' (He has, however, had to deal with a a Russian child who had what the school regarded as 'an excessive amount of pocket money'.) Dr Atwood believes that criminals are not generally interested in education. The type of parents he has been meeting are either Anglophiles or those with a high regard for learning and strong ambition for their children.

Certainly these seemed to be the kind of people who came to the meeting at Moscow University after seeing advertisements in the press. They asked serious questions about curricula and health insurance, and took copious notes.

One mother of six children, in dowdy clothes, which suggested she could not be living on more than the average Russian wage, asked whether the schools provided financial help for parents of talented children and limited means. She was taken into another room for a private discussion.

The schools do offer a few scholarships, which relieve but do not entirely remove the parental burden. But Mr Rawlinson warned: 'If your first priority is how cheap the school is, we have a different approach. Our aim is to give an excellent education.'

One Russian child who has already received the benefits of Oakley Hall is nine-year-old Vladimir Maximov. His mother Larissa, who works for an organisation that helps infertile Western couples to adopt children in the former Soviet Union, came to Moscow from her home in Saratov, on the Volga, to tell of her experience of British schooling and to pass on a parcel for her boy. Did it contain cake? 'No, no, I think you have cake in England. It's full of toys,' she said.

Mrs Maximova is satisfied that her main aim in sending Vladimir to Gloucestershire has been fulfilled: he has learned to speak fluent English and absorbed a little of the English, rather than American, culture. 'I have travelled at lot, to Germany, to the United Arab Emirates,' she said. 'But only England has that charm, those old, beautiful buildings. Even the people age beautifully.'

But she will probably not be keeping Vladimir in England beyond this year. For her, the cost of a full education to the age of 18 is prohibitive, and she is anxious that her son should not forget Russia and the Russian language. Her ambition for him is simply that he should fulfil himself. 'Social climbing is not the goal. Let him be a carpenter as long as he is happy, honest and good.'

(Photograph omitted)

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Luis Suarez looks towards the crowd during the 2-1 victory over England
Life and Style
Cheesecake frozen yoghurt by Constance and Mathilde Lorenzi
food + drinkThink outside the cool box for this summer’s frozen treats
John Barrowman kisses his male “bride” at a mock Gretna Green during the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony
peopleBarrowman's opening ceremony message to Commonwealth countries where he would be sent to prison for being gay
Sir Bradley Wiggins removes his silver medal after the podium ceremony for the men’s 4,000m team pursuit in Glasgow yesterday
Commonwealth games Disappointment for Sir Bradley in team pursuit final as England are forced to settle for silver
Alistair Brownlee (right) celebrates with his gold medal after winning the men’s triathlon alongside brother Jonny (left), who got silver
England's Jodie Stimpson won the women’s triathlon in the morning
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Process Improvement Analyst (Testing)

£40000 - £45000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is curr...

Service Delivery Manager - Derivatives, Support,

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Service Delivery Manager - (Derivatives, Support...

Technical Account Manager - Java, FIX Protocol, FIX 5.0, C++

£30000 - £55000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Technical Account Manager - Java,...

WPF .NET Developer

£300 - £350 per day: Harrington Starr: WPF Analyst Programmer NET, WPF, C#, M...

Day In a Page

Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform