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Students we met were serious and determined – some shy, some more assured, but all unassuming and likeable, and they clearly adore the school. One mother felt you can be anything here – ‘quirky, nerdy, it doesn’t matter as everyone is a minority of some sort, so nobody stands out.’ After the weekly Saturday morning tests teachers are bombarded by students wanting to know how to move their 98 per cent to 100 per cent. In practically every Monday morning class we dropped in on, each wrong answer was dissected and remedied. Students appreciate the small class sizes of 10-15 – ‘it means the teachers know us and, more importantly, our learning styles – they constantly adapt to get us the best results.’ The pace is fast and teachers often get through…

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What the school says...

Concord College is an international boarding school with superb facilities and a very powerful work ethic. Concord College is fully committed to the development of the self-confidence of the individual student and their talents. It aims to educate students to be highly successful and well-rounded young people who are ready for the next stage of their lives. ...Read more

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Since 2021, Dr Michael Truss, previously deputy head (academic) at Barnard Castle. MPhys degree in physics from Oxford and a PhD in theoretical astrophysics from Leicester, followed by postdoctoral research at St Andrews and a teaching fellowship at Durham. Became a maths teacher at Bedales in 2007, rising through the ranks to head of academic enrichment.

Predictably grand office with views to die for, but this is not a head that needs to get over himself. He happily made our coffee (most get their PAs to do it) and thought nothing of starting his meeting in the drafty area outside the conference room when he realised we were still in there. Parents don’t have a strong sense of him - ‘probably because most of us live overseas’ - but students say he’s a ‘motivational speaker’ and ‘makes a real effort to get to know us’, including via the odd bit of teaching. ‘Headship can seem scary and formal,’ he acknowledges, ‘and teaching makes me slightly more human!’ Living on site helps - means the students don’t just get the suited and booted version, and see him as a family man too: his wife, Suzanne (delightful and enthusiastic to the point of effervescent), is a marketing officer and form tutor at the school, and their two sons both attend.

‘Where’s the catch?’ was his first reaction when he read the job description. ‘But there really isn’t one. The results are wonderful, students are happy and there’s a quiet calmness that I haven’t seen in any other school.’ The next step is to spread the word, he says. ‘In Malaysia, everyone’s heard of us, yet in London they haven’t – and that goes for a lot of other places globally too.’

Even if they have, he says, they don’t always have the full picture. ‘When I talk to academically focused and exams-driven prospective parents looking for a British school, they wind up with a shortlist of 10-15 schools including us. But then how do they work out how we’re different to, say, Brighton College or a tutorial college? That’s the bit we need to promote – the things like greater freedoms in sixth form, the international element and the enrichment.’

An adventurous traveller, he and his family have twice hiked to the bottom of the Grand Canyon and out again, and they’re regular canoeists too. An avid reader (currently Ukrainian writer, Andrey Kurkov), he told us, ‘I’m constantly telling students that being well read can make you stand out against other students with three A*s.’ Very Concord, where eyes are never off target.


Highly selective, with four applications per place. Around 50 join in year 9 and a further 45 in year 10, via entrance exams in English, maths and critical thinking. Biggest intake is into year 12, when 120 newbies join. Applicants need 50+ points from their best six GCSEs (excluding native language other than English). Equivalents accepted for overseas students. References and reports from current school required at all stages, and nearly all are interviewed (can be online).


Between 15 and 20 per cent leave after GCSEs, usually for less traditional A levels such as psychology and computer science. Either that or they don’t get the grades (while the school doesn’t exactly cull, there’s really only leeway on 50+ points rule if a student gets three 9s in the subjects to be studied). Most opt for the London universities – Imperial, UCL, LSE and King’s College London – but the school is trying to educate parents around the value of eg Durham, Warwick and Exeter, with some success. ‘Often, it’s just that the international parents haven’t heard of them.’ Twelve to Oxbridge in 2023, and growing numbers to US and Canada, eg Cornell, Columbia, Chicago, Toronto, UCLA and NYU. Students from Hong Kong increasingly return to study there. Popular courses include medicine (29 in 2022), law, economics, finance, maths and the sciences – many are following in their parents’ footsteps. Top-drawer university and careers advice, agree all.

Latest results

In 2023, 90 per cent 9-7 at I/GCSE; 68 per cent A*/A at A level (87 per cent A*-B). In 2019 (the last pre-pandemic results), 85 per cent 9-7 at I/GCSE; 85 per cent A*/A at A level.

Teaching and learning

You will find Concord showcasing the top echelons of any league table you care to consult, and for most parents that’s its allure. ‘They promise impressive exam results, and they deliver,’ proclaimed one. We have rarely visited such a goal-oriented school. ‘Don’t the teachers ever go “off piste” in lessons?’ we asked the deputy head (academic), mindful that students are selected largely on their intellectual curiosity. ‘No,’ he said, ‘the students know each syllabus and would soon bring them back on task!’ (The only exception is year 9, when there is more opportunity to explore intellectually, eg via the global history course.)

After the weekly Saturday morning tests teachers are bombarded by students wanting to know how to move their 98 per cent to 100 per cent. In practically every Monday morning class we dropped in on, each wrong answer was dissected and remedied. Students appreciate the small class sizes of 10-15 – ‘It means the teachers know us and, more importantly, our learning styles – they constantly adapt to get us the best results.’ The pace is fast and teachers often get through twice the material of other schools. No wonder students appreciate teachers being easily available, and there are subject clinics and a student-led academic mentor scheme.

Several parents told us their child was top of the class in their previous school, but not so here – ‘good preparation for the real world!’ declared one. But while this is a comfortable place for a straight A student, what happens if anyone – shock! horror! – gets the odd B? ‘It does happen,’ laughed a student, ‘although not usually much lower.’ And what of those lacking motivation? ‘You couldn’t get a less motivated child than mine,’ said one parent, ‘but that’s why she chose the school – she felt the Saturday testing would keep her on track, and it does.’ School says it does have to ‘pull some students up on engagement levels, but we know them and how best to achieve that.’

Enrichment may be lacking in the classroom, but it’s bursting at the seams via clubs, societies and the EPQ. ‘The teachers are open to other ideas too,’ said one student who had persuaded one to help him enter the British Informatics Olympiad.

From year 9, setting in maths and English. French and German taught, with a Spanish option from year 10. Students can also take GCSEs in their native languages. Between 10 and 12 GCSEs is the norm – all take triple science, many take further maths. In sixth form, everyone starts with four A levels. Some drop to three, a few round it up to five. Over 95 per cent take maths and nearly half take further maths. Economics and the sciences also popular. ‘I am very unusual in taking English, Spanish and history,’ said one of our tour guides. Many supplement their A levels with AS levels and EPQ – there’s even a dedicated EPQ science lab.

There is an air of competitiveness (eg noticeboards feature top-ranking students), yet students say it is a ‘kind school’ and ‘everyone is supportive’. Students embrace the cultural diversity and what it brings to their learning, but a lack of socioeconomic diversity was evident in an economics debate we observed on causes of poverty.

Learning support and SEN

Around 16-20 students in lower school require EAL support, for which they are pulled out of history, French or German in small groups. SENCo (who has been at the school since the 1980s, although not in the same role) showed us a list of current SEN needs, accounting for around 10 per cent of students – mainly features dyslexia, slow speed of work, anxiety, slow writing speed, ADHD and autism. Many of the students, often for cultural reasons, are undiagnosed, but school does its own screening. Support mainly within the classroom, although some get additional help, mainly ‘around organisational skills’. Parents say there is ‘excellent communication between the SENCo, teachers and parents’ and ‘they absolutely get the issues and work with them.’ But one told us, ‘Some teachers are more empathetic around SEN than others.’

The arts and extracurricular

Aware that their sharp intellect alone may not get them that glittering prize of a top uni, students need no persuading to fill their after-school hours with some of the 100+ clubs and societies. Many are student led – one told us he set up a cinema club and is now running a film-making competition: ‘Teachers nearly always agree to good ideas,’ he said. Model UN, debating, medsoc, philsoc, maths problem workshops all popular, while lighter options include sports, creative arts, crochet and knitting.

Musical talent in no short supply, with many students playing to grade levels us mere mortals can only dream of. There’s no GCSE or A level – the director of music says school favours the ‘more creative, less prescriptive’ opportunities of BTEC or EPQ. The peris who teach instrumental lessons are in ‘a league of their own’, according to students, and there are opportunities to perform and record (school has its own recording studio), including students’ own compositions. Always plenty on the musical calendar: a song writing workshop, house arts festival, strings and piano day, open mic, County Young Musician of the Year competition, jazz improvisation day, talent show and Concord concerto competitional final – and that was just for the month we visited!

In a GCSE drama class (there’s no A level), students were designing sets for Blood Brothers on iPads. Off curriculum, drama and dance is largely culturally focused - students love the opportunity for creative expression within a culture that’s familiar to them, as well as exposing other students to it. House arts hugely popular and includes songs, poetry, dance and ensembles. LAMDA gets good take-up. ‘The drama helps my son find his own creativity and speak out more,’ said one mother. Super theatre, though not big enough to seat whole school.

Everyone agrees art teaching is strong and facilities outstanding, but some parents feel the school ‘doesn’t regard it as an academic subject and so it tends to get sidelined’. Students disagree, and school churns out architects most years, as well as boasting fashion designer Nensi Dojaka and prize-winning makeup artist Ophelia Liu among its alumni. Some super art featured in the principal’s office and art department, though some of it dates years back, and we felt it could be showcased more around campus.

Curriculum is collapsed on Wednesday afternoons for outdoor pursuits – everything from high ropes and mountain biking through to sporting fixtures, while for sixth formers there are also general fitness options. DofE popular – over 90 per cent do bronze, many carrying it through to gold.


Impressive facilities include fields, three gyms, two sports halls and an indoor pool. ‘But if you’re really sporty, don’t come here!’ cautioned a parent. Rugby only exists in tag form, and they don’t have a rugby team at all. Likewise, cricket is a student-led activity, with no teams at present. Still, it’s all relative, with some international parents delighted with the sports offering - ‘It’s great, there’s a lot more than he’d get in China!’ Certainly no lack of breadth – football, swimming, athletics, golf, fencing, badminton, basketball, volleyball and table tennis all feature, and there had just been a water polo competition when we visited. As part of the regular fixtures (each of which is written up by a student), Concord more than holds its own against the likes of Ellesmere and Wrekin College in eg football, although it wouldn’t be foolish enough to take on the first football team at, say, Shrewsbury School. The elite sports programme caters for a small number of students who play at regional or national level and require additional support, and the school boasts the occasional national champion. But there are no sports scholarships and even the principal admits, ‘A really sporty person wouldn’t come here solely for the sporting opportunities.’ Still, ball-phobes can (and do) breathe a sigh of relief.


Seventeen boarding houses, all single sex. Half are on site (includes all lower school houses and some older years ones), the rest within walking distance (but pack your hiking boots, especially if you get the one on the neighbouring farm). Smallest has five rooms, biggest has 70. High-quality, modern and colourful with single rooms for all, many ensuite. Mostly tidy, some unmade beds. Security is unobtrusive but rigorous, and lower school students are not allowed back to their rooms during the day. Lots of tasteful shared areas within the houses, plus a spacious common room for everyone including day students (also used for school discos). House parents ‘really care’, say students.

After end of lessons (nine x 35-minutes) at 4pm, boarders’ time is structured into clubs and society time, followed by dinner, then prep. At weekends, there are the Saturday morning tests, followed by the option to get the coach into Shrewsbury. Sundays are for lie-ins, brunch and activities on and off site, eg shopping trips, mountain biking activities, visits to castles etc. ‘But often, you just want to chill out,’ said a student. Wifi cuts out at a time to suit the age group.

One mother felt the school could do more to integrate the different nationalities – ‘You get cliques, which is a shame.’ But they love that students can stay on campus in the Easter holidays – ‘so convenient, especially that close to exams.’

Ethos and heritage

A fairly modern school by British standards, Concord (meaning ‘harmony’) was founded in 1949 in a post-war attempt to bring together nationalities through language teaching and personal warmth. Moved to current site in 1973, accepting girls four years later. As picturesque settings go, it’s up there, with 80 acres of Shropshire countryside surrounding the blend of medieval, 18th century and sympathetically designed modern buildings. The spacious grounds famously boast the ruins of the first seat of parliament, as well an English Heritage owned castle. Students, many of whom come from big cities, lap up the sense of history and green spaces.

Not being bogged down in sacred past traditions gives the school a contemporary feel. And perhaps because the school is 60 per cent sixth form and because all the students wear their own clothes and seem mature beyond their years, it feels more akin to a university. World-class facilities help. The science block is among the most sophisticated we’ve seen – not just the whizzy, university-standard labs but the museum-like foyer boasting interactive periodic table, huge bear skeleton replica, working pendulum and astronomy-themed screens surrounding one of the coolest breakout areas we’ve come across. Library smaller than we expected, ‘but there’s always somewhere to study,’ assured a student.

The atmosphere is focused and calm - no hint of boisterousness or silliness on our visit. One parent reckoned the culture is contagious - ‘They get carried along with the success, I’ve seen my daughter change dramatically since being there.’ Food excellent – tasty, plenty of choice and delicious salad bar. Portions could be bigger, we heard, though saw plates (including our own) piled high.

Pastoral care, inclusivity and discipline

‘Students are surrounded on all sides,’ a teacher told us. Sounded terrifying, especially with the medieval castle in sight. Thankfully he was referring to the pastoral structure, which is as tight as the academic, and includes tutors, heads of year, house staff, boarding staff and those in leadership roles with pastoral responsibility, along with counsellors, a psychotherapist, mental health nurse and lots of staff training. In lower school, there’s a family atmosphere, though the big influx of high-octane sixth formers creates a slightly more hard-edged feel higher up.

The kind of low-level class disruption you’d find in years 9 and 10 in other schools simply doesn’t happen at Concord – you get the feeling their classmates would wade in quicker than the teacher. But there is still a need for boundaries and rules, with a sex, drugs and rock’n’roll assembly kicking off every new academic year. Thankfully no such misdemeanours have led to inevitable exclusions in recent years. But detentions for turning up a few minutes late to registration and lessons are common, say students.

Asked what they’d change about their school (usually a question that gets lively responses), students seemed embarrassed. No wonder a student told us the student council only meets annually (school says it’s termly).

Older students appreciate the greater freedoms than they’d get at other schools – own clothes, exeats on request and choosing where to spend free periods, for example. Nearly all have leadership roles – subject mentors, library prefects, outreach committee, society leads etc. Inclusivity tends to come with the territory at international schools, and this is no exception, including societies for eg LGBTQ+.

Pupils and parents

Students we met were serious and determined - some shy, some more assured, but all unassuming and likeable, and they clearly adore the school. One mother felt you can be anything here – ‘quirky, nerdy, it doesn’t matter as everyone is a minority of some sort, so nobody stands out.’ Around 15 per cent are local day pupils, the rest from a range of countries, predominantly Asian, with a quarter of the cohort from Hong Kong and 15 per cent from China. Smaller numbers from Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand, and smaller still from Europe, Africa, South Korea, Indonesia, Russia and beyond. Parents are largely from the international business community and don’t hanker after the social cachet of a traditional English public school. Local Shropshire parents of day students welcome the school’s diversity and are prepared to travel 45 minutes to get there (or use the school bus).

Money matters

Means-tested bursaries, up to 100 per cent, now available for local day students. Academic scholarships, with 10 per cent fee remission, for those entering years 9, 10 and 12.

The last word

Intellectual powerhouse + safe rural setting + international outlook = a big red tick for highly aspirational parents, especially those from overseas who love the idea of a British education without any stuffiness. The enrichment, insofar as it’s another step closer to a top uni, is considered the icing on the cake. Absolutely not the school for anyone who can’t cope with a fierce academic pace or relentless focus on exams. And you might struggle to find like-minded friends if you’re solely interested in the arts. But for bright sparks with drive and determination, there’s nowhere quite like it.

Please note: Independent schools frequently offer IGCSEs or other qualifications alongside or as an alternative to GCSE. The DfE does not record performance data for these exams so independent school GCSE data is frequently misleading; parents should check the results with the schools.

Who came from where

Who goes where

Special Education Needs

Concord College recognises that academically-able students may also have difficulties in particular areas and we believe firmly that having such difficulties should not be a barrier to realising their considerable academic potential. All students entering Concord will have performed well on our entrance tests and have evidence of academic capability from their previous schools. Concord has a dedicated SEN coordinator who oversees support for students who require it. Small class sizes, and a philosophy which aims to educate each and every student as an individual, lead to an environment where those of our students who have special educational needs can thrive, alongside their colleagues. Concord is able to provide support to students with a range of different special educational needs. Concord College strives to fully realise the potential of all of its students; the vast majority of whom are extremely able and who experience few, if any, learning difficulties. However we do have a large number of students, as an international College, who require support in English as an Additional Language (EAL). Furthermore, we have a small number of pupils who require SEN support for dyslexia or dyspraxia. This support takes the form of close monitoring and the provision of some extra classes targeting literacy and numeracy skills. Our small class sizes (averaging 1 teacher to fewer than 14 students last year) make regular one-to-one teacher support the norm within lessons.

Condition Provision for in school
ASD - Autistic Spectrum Disorder
Aspergers Y
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorders
CReSTeD registered for Dyslexia
English as an additional language (EAL)
Has an entry in the Autism Services Directory
Has SEN unit or class
HI - Hearing Impairment
Hospital School
Mental health
MLD - Moderate Learning Difficulty
MSI - Multi-Sensory Impairment
Natspec Specialist Colleges
OTH - Other Difficulty/Disability
Other SpLD - Specific Learning Difficulty
PD - Physical Disability
PMLD - Profound and Multiple Learning Difficulty
SEMH - Social, Emotional and Mental Health
SLCN - Speech, Language and Communication
SLD - Severe Learning Difficulty
Special facilities for Visually Impaired
SpLD - Specific Learning Difficulty
VI - Visual Impairment

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