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Good show! School following British curriculum opens in NY

NEW YORK -- About 50 grade school pupils arrived this week for classes at the new British International School of New York, the city's only school centered on Britain's national curriculum.

Dressed in red and gray uniforms, some of the children clung to their parents while others fearlessly marched into the building on a dreary, rainy day reminiscent of the weather in England.

Nine-year-old Max Bloch, from Brighton, England, seemed unfazed by the first day of school and said he was looking forward to ``math, literacy; whatever we do."

The curriculum at the school differs from traditional American approaches in several ways, said the school's headmaster, David Morse. There will be far greater emphasis on world history and geography. English classes will tackle well-known British authors. Spelling will be in British style -- ``colour" instead of ``color" -- and sports will include a children's version of cricket, among other popular British past imes.

The food will include some British favorites, but also meals from other cultures.

A handful of major US cities -- including Boston, Chicago, and Washington , D.C. -- already have British schools, making New York something of an anomaly for lacking one, school officials said. The tuition is $26,000 a year, fairly typical for New York private schools.

Morse said the school's approach fits nicely among international private schools worldwide, making it easy for children to transfer if they leave the country. That was one reason Hans Wright, a credit analyst who recently moved to New York from London, enrolled his daughters, Mabel, 4, and Rosie, 6.

``The fact that it's a brand-new school is quite attractive really because it doesn't have any baggage," said Wright, 36. ``It makes my girls feel more included in what's going on."

When asked what his daughter was looking forward to, Mabel said Thursday morning: ``Homework."

During an opening session, Morse told the students about Grigory Perelman, the reclusive Russian mathematician who solved the Poincaré Conjecture, and asked them what they thought he had won. (``A lollipop?" ``A trophy?")

Then, he described how Perelman has shunned the Fields Medal and prize money because he said it was enough reward to simply solve the puzzle. ``All I want you to take out from today is, one, be a risk taker," Morse said. ``And two, do your best. And that's all we can ask of you."

The school has attracted many expatriate British families; however, about half of the enrollees' parents are New Yorkers, though many have some connection to England.

``Children are encouraged to be global citizens" by the curriculum, Morse said. ``I think that's one of the reasons it has appeal to a large number of New York parents, this idea of being citizens of the world."

America will not be completely shut out of the school's curriculum. Morse wants to emphasize the creative elements in US schools -- in the arts, for example -- and said there would a greater push for parental involvement than in regular British schools.

Located in a window-filled, airy building next to the East River, the private school has been nearly two years in the making. The privately owned, for-profit school now offers prekindergarten through the fourth grade.

School officials declined to disclose a specific start up cost, but said it was more than $1 million.

The school, which also uses the prestigious International Baccalaureate curriculum, has a capacity of 200 students. .

Amanda Uhry, who runs Manhattan Private School Advisors, gave the school credit just for opening, noting how hard it is to launch a private school in Manhattan because of the high cost of real estate.

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