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Not bogged down in sacred past traditions and will let students run with whatever the passion of the day might be. Recent student-led initiatives include beekeeping and an outdoor movie event as well as a buggy competition. Huge numbers take maths, further maths, economics  and the sciences - very few humanities or languages. ‘Sport’, one teacher told us, ’is not God here. It is a recreation for everyone...

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Meet Concord College at the Independent Schools Show 2018, Stand 621

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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What The Good Schools Guide says

Principal

Since 2005, Neil Hawkins MA (50s), a Cambridge historian whose previous posts include director of studies at The Leys and head of history at Sevenoaks. Has built on splendid work of his visionary predecessors - and how! As we visited, a new science block with 22 laboratories including a research laboratory was going up, and boarding houses were being extended and kitted out with ensuite rooms. But it is the underlying ethos of the school, its commitment to internationalism, to excellence, to a global, harmonious meritocracy that has kept Neil and his wife here, though he admits the gorgeous views of the Shropshire countryside from his spacious study have helped.

Parents, staff and students clearly respect him hugely. They say he listens and empowers, that he is liberal and takes everyone with him in the drive for excellence. He comes across as approachable and incredibly enthusiastic, with a vision not just for the school but for the world. He models the warm, unpretentious, positive and driven behaviours that he wants in the students. ‘I have in my mind whenever I speak to groups of students, what values will these young people be passing on to their grandchildren. I want those values to be the core Concord ones of decency, trust, responsibility and service’.

Warm and welcoming, Mr Hawkins clearly delights in being at Concord, ‘As a historian, it is wonderful. Look out there. Over to the right the castle and to the left the Parliamentary Barn’. He talks with infectious enthusiasm about the students, the staff and the whole set up, cheerfully and convincingly dealing with common misconceptions of the college. His wife Vanessa runs marketing, and does some teaching and pastoral leadership. They met at Cambridge where their son now studies after five years at Concord.

‘He really cares about us,’ said a student. ‘He knows our names, comes into lunch every day and asks us how we’re getting on and listens to our answers. That is why so many student-led initiatives are implemented.’ ‘He certainly has his finger on the pulse,’ said one parent. The right man for the job, and during his reign the college has gone from strength to strength. No school will stand still under Neil’s leadership.

Academic matters

Whichever league table you choose to consult, you'll find Concord among the top selective schools in the country. Exam results are consistently impressive. In 2018, 81 per cent A*/A at A level and 87 per cent A*-A/9-7 at I/GCSE. Huge numbers take maths, further maths, economics and the sciences. Other disciplines are smaller but achieve equally stellar results. Class sizes are small and the whole emphasis is on individual attention. We visited as A levels were kicking off; teachers had provided a list of all their non-contact time each week so students knew when each teacher was available for individual support.

Results reflect not only the high calibre of teaching staff but also the fact that students come from backgrounds that are very goal orientated and where education is highly valued. Expectations are stratospheric. After regular Saturday tests teachers are bombarded by students wanting to know how to move their 98 per cent to 100 per cent. Many are aware that this is a very different style of education compared to that offered in the top schools in their own country and they relish the relative liberalism. The pace is fast and teachers find they get through twice the material in a Concord A level lesson that they would expect to in other schools. While English language support is available, a student with weak English would undoubtedly struggle because of the pace of lessons.

Students and teachers were at pains to explain that although the atmosphere is competitive – there are notice boards with the top students from last year’s external results featured – it's also highly supportive. The students want everyone to achieve and helping each other is seen as part of the principles of a Concord education. This may be true, but parents did raise questions about how it must feel to be a student who doesn't get all A*s and a place at a top university.

Student after student to whom we spoke was high octane; ideas came pouring out of them. They want a school with a brilliant reputation and results so that they can go on and be significant players on the global scene. They know that it is not just about their sharp intellect, but also about wider awareness and they are just as keen to grab that too with both hands.

A level choices confined to what might be considered the safe traditional subjects and one student commented that there was a limit to the possible combinations. Music is offered as a Btec rather than GCSE and as an EPQ (extended project qualification) in the sixth form, rather than as an A level subject. Rather like sport, music is seen as high quality recreation rather than purely academic study and both the Btec and EPQ focus on a practical approach.

Games, options, the arts

‘Sport’, one teacher told us, ’is not God here. It is a recreation for everyone and something you are expected to manage as part of your daily life.’ That said, PE is timetabled for everyone including final year students during the week. In addition to the usual suspects there are probably more minority sports on offer here than at other schools – badminton, table tennis, basket ball, volley ball. Facilities are marvellous and going to be further extended with the recent purchase of a large field adjacent to the main school site. Links with local and regional clubs support the elite sports people and the college boasts the occasional national champion. On the other hand, one father told us his son disliked sport and coming to Concord had been a huge relief to him.

There are wonderful performance opportunities for the musically gifted and a lot relish these, unsurprisingly given the number taking individual music lessons. But again the emphasis, particularly in the house competitions and international society cultural events, is on everyone having a go. The day we visited, everyone was talking about a concert the night before that featured student ensembles playing students’ own compositions. Like a number of other performances, it was also a fundraising event for a local social enterprise charity. It had been professionally recorded by a music producer – the school has its own recording studio – and CDs were being sold to raise funds.

Performing arts opportunities consciously draw on Concord's international demographic, offering ample opportunities for creative expression within a culture that is familiar but also exposing students to ones that are less so. House arts competition is hugely popular and includes songs, poetry, dance and ensembles.

Myriad of clubs and societies including the important international ones. ‘It is good preparation for university where international societies are a valuable anchor for some of our students’, a member of the SMT told us. Many are student led and intellectually based – behavioural economics, CED (Create, Engage, Discover – the Concord answer to Ted talks)
There is a real awareness of social issues in a college where firsthand experience of Third World problems is common. A committee coordinates charity outreach and there is a lot going on which requires a level of business acumen.

Boarders

Boarding has undergone reorganisation to reflect the needs of a larger college. All boarding houses are single sex. Some students are housed outside the main school campus around the village, but all lower school boys and girls are now accommodated on site (not all parents completely comfortable with this arrangement, so getting the younger ones on site has been a popular move).

High quality accommodation with an increasing number of single en-suite rooms; security is unobtrusive but rigorous. Food was praised – lots of variety and not surprisingly, an international or fusion flavour.

After academic lessons finish, boarders' time is carefully structured for younger pupils, becoming less so as they move up through the school. Weekends are pretty packed with the school facilities being well used and plenty of day trips organised. Students spoke warmly of the relationship between staff and students.

One group of boarders commented that it was a very trusting community and speculated on how prepared they would be for the more edgy outside world.

Background and atmosphere

Concord stands in 80 acres of Shropshire countryside, its sympathetically designed modern buildings blending with the 18th century and medieval. The school was founded after the Second World War as an attempt to foster healing between nationalities through language teaching and personal warmth. The word ‘Concord’ means harmony, a value which remains at the heart of what the college is today. It may be an intellectual power house, but it's a calm and gentle one where community and service are held in as much esteem as individual success.

Not being bogged down in sacred past traditions, the school responds quickly to new ideas and will run with whatever students' passion of the day might be. Recent initiatives include bee keeping and an outdoor movie event as well as a buggy competition.

Parents felt there was a difference between the atmosphere in the lower and upper parts of the school, observing that while lower school had a genuine family feel, the big annual influx of new sixth form students caused a change in atmosphere. One or two felt that the new students saw Concord purely as a means to an end – top universities – and the environment was more hard edged as a result. ‘But that’s what their lives are going to be like’, commented one parent philosophically.

Pastoral care, well-being and discipline

These students want to please. They hold teachers in high regard and behavioural problems, even the low level class disruption that you often find in Year 9 and 10, simply do not occur at Concord. ‘The students self regulate,’ staff told us. Occasionally, if a new student is not focussing in class, it is his class mates who get him in line. Students wear their own clothes, proving that uniform has nothing to do with inner discipline and motivation. But everyone knows there are boundaries and if drugs were brought into the College, the perpetrator would be heading out.
Impressive, all embracing pastoral structure includes outside counsellors, a psychotherapist, student counsellors and lots of staff training, as well as tutors, house staff and those in the leadership team with pastoral responsibility.

Pupils and parents

Parents are largely from the international business community. They are not families who want or need the social cachet of a traditional English public school. Local Shropshire parents of day students are particularly keen on the cultural, racial and religious mix. Lack of uniform lends an informal air, but underlying ethos of rigorous endeavour is palpable.

Students clearly love the place and can’t speak highly enough of what they have gained from it. About 80 of the 550 pupils are from the UK, the rest come from many countries, predominantly Asian. The ones to whom we spoke were articulate, confident but unassuming. Most were very natural and charming, but you could also spy the next mandarins, carefully considering our questions and weighing up their responses!

Entrance

Highly selective and getting more so, particularly at sixth form level. For entry to year 12 spoken and written English has to be competent. Those coming in at 13+ have more time to get it up to standard.

Exit

The influence of family background can be seen in pupils' higher education choices. Parents have done well themselves in business and they value degrees in economics, finance, medicine, law, maths and the sciences. Having said that, quite a few go on to study architecture and the art department has considerable success with the London art schools.

Twenty Oxbridge places in 2018 with a further 35 heading for Imperial and LSE. Impressive numbers to medical/dental/vet courses. Preparation for university is taken very seriously and not left to chance or to a belief that bright, hard working children are sure to get where they want. There is structured work for the various different entrance exams now required for different universities and different course.

Money matters

Fees are high but you get the impression no expense is spared when it comes to the goal of academic excellence. Facilities are superb and always improving. School is working on developing its own bursaries and scholarships and some students attend on scholarships from their home governments. Fees include being able to stay at half terms and, for sixth formers, during the Easter holidays. Some bursarial support for day pupils.

Our view

Concord isn't for everyone. It won't suit a child who doesn’t want to work or who is made uneasy by a fierce academic pace. It may also not be right for a child who is solely interested in the arts – not because they wouldn’t find high quality and wide ranging arts teaching, but because they might not find enough like minded students.

Concord is, however, as near perfect a place as you could want for the student who is academic. This is where the next generation of global high fliers is being nurtured. If you want your offspring to have a chance in this stratosphere, want them to engage with issues beyond the shores of the UK or just want them to make life-long international friendships, then do look at Concord. It is in a league of its own and one that is increasingly in high world demand.

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 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 less than 14 students last year) make regular one-to-one teacher support the norm within lessons. 10-09

Condition Provision for in school
ASD - Autistic Spectrum Disorder
Aspergers Y
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorders
CReSTeD registered for Dyslexia
Dyscalculia
Dysgraphia
Dyslexia
Dyspraxia
English as an additional language (EAL)
Genetic
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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