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It is 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, where it was good to see the girls playing as leading a role as the boys.  Huge numbers take maths, further maths, economics  and the sciences - very few humanities or languages - hence the need for more lab space. ‘Sport’, one teacher told us, ’is not God here. It is a recreation for everyone...

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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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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. He has built on splendid work of his visionary predecessors - built 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 at the school, 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 feels the responsibility of educating the next generation of global leaders and wants to share his commitment to rigour and gentleness. 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’.

Engaging, warm and welcoming, with a bubbling sense of humour and an air of inner calm, 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’. As principal, 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.

Neil’s 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 he 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 way organisations choose to produce exam league tables, Concord is coming in the top few elite selective schools in the country. This, of course, is the big draw for international students and it is this that keeps the school growing. A level results at A* and A hover around 80 per cent (85 per cent in 2017). At GCSE, 82 per cent A*-A/9-7 in 2017. Huge numbers take maths, further maths, economics and the sciences - very few humanities or languages - hence the need for more lab space.

Class sizes are small and the whole emphasis is on individual attention. We visited as A levels were kicking off and teachers had provided students with a list of all their non-contact time each week so students knew when each teacher was available for individual support. The results reflect the high quality of teaching staff, the high regard in which they are held both by the students but also by the management, and the fact that students come from backgrounds that are very goal orientated (85 per cent are from overseas) and believe that education is important. Expectations are stratospheric. After the Saturday tests that run for year 10 upwards every week, teachers are bombarded with students wanting to know how to move their 98 per cent to 100 per cent. But teachers say that is only part of it – students are curious, love discussions, ask questions and feed off each other’s intellectual passions. Many are aware they are exposed to a very different education to that offered in the top schools in their own country and they relish the relative liberalism.

Teaching is fast paced and teachers find they get through twice the material in a Concord A level lesson that they would expect to in other schools. The English lesson we observed had the students making their own notes, contributing to quick fired questions and shooting them back equally fast. Staff say students are united by a desire to succeed. They demand a lot of their teachers but are incredibly appreciative. The sixth formers were planning the Teachers’ Day as they came to the end of their exam classes – an occasion to be able to express their gratitude in a number of creative and heartfelt ways. Both students and teachers went out of their way to explain that yes, the atmosphere is competitive – there are noticeboards with the top students from last year’s external results featured – but 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 the case for some but parents did raise questions about what it must feel like to be a student there when they don’t get into Oxbridge or get top grades. Student after student to whom we spoke was high octane. They had ideas pouring out of them. They wanted a school with a brilliant reputation and results so they could go on and be significant players on the global scene. They knew that is not just about their sharp intellect but also about wider awareness, and they were just as keen to grab that too with both hands.

A level choices are what might be considered the safe, traditional subjects and one student commented that there was a limit to the combination of subjects that were possible. There are no 'ologies' taught, and drama and PE are available at GCSE but not A level - both largely practical courses. Music is offered as a BTec rather than GCSE and as an EPQ in the sixth form, again with a practical emphasis. These are for high quality recreation rather than purely academic study.

Most students are able to learn very quickly and the small class sizes allow for regular one-to-one support within the normal lessons to work on individual short term difficulties. At sixth form level, the admissions process selects those who will cope with the fast pace of A level teaching, though there is English language tuition available at all levels and students told us that they find this efficient and helpful. A few students require extra support which takes the form of extra lessons targeting language and/or literacy skills, with progress being closely monitored, mostly without extra cost.

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, there are PE periods timetabled for everyone except the final year students during the week. There are a lot of matches against other local schools with stirring write ups of the games. There are the usual sports and probably more of the minority sports than you find at other schools – badminton, table tennis, basketball, volleyball. The facilities are marvellous, as you would expect, and going to be further extended with the recent purchase of a large field adjacent to the main school site. There is a popular fitness suite and swimming pool. There are links with local and regional sports clubs to support the elite sportspeople 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 had consisted of students’ own compositions and students leading ensembles. 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 in aid of the charity. There is an emphasis on celebrating musical traditions throughout the world, classical and folk. Top musicians enter local and national competitions and many sit music examinations. The school takes the students to concerts around Shropshire and hosts professional concerts itself in the 300 seat theatre and concert hall.

Performing arts generally consciously draws on the international dimension, offering ample opportunities for creative expression within a culture that is familiar but also exposing students to ones that are less so. The house arts competition is hugely popular and includes songs, poetry, dance and ensembles.

The art department is housed in the old village primary school and offers a brilliant space for high quality work. We saw bold projects in a great variety of media that showed the students pushing the boundaries of their creativity as well as indicating their ability for detailed research.

There is a myriad of other societies including the important international ones. ‘It is good preparation for university where international societies are a valuable anchor for some of our students’, the deputy head told us. Everyone commented on how open the college was to any new ideas for societies. There is none of the ‘You can’t do that because that is when rugby practice always happens’ at Concord. Many of the societies are student-led and intellectually based – behavioural psychology, CED (Create, Engage, Discover – the Concord answer to Ted talks).

There is a real awareness of social issues in a college where first-hand experience of developing world problems is common. A committee that coordinates charity outreach and there is a lot going on which requires a level of business acumen.

There are outdoor education opportunities and a number of visits as well as workshops run by professionals of various kinds. All year 9s do a Duke of Edinburgh bronze award.

Boarders

Boarding has been slightly reorganised to reflect the needs of a larger college. All the lower school boys are now in one house and the lower school girls in another. Some students are housed outside the main school campus around the village. Not all parents are completely comfortable with this, so getting the younger ones on site is a good move. House monitors undertake leadership training and their antennae are always out for any concerns, the head of lower school told us. The single sex culture of the boarding houses is deeply ingrained so there is no having to constantly police this. In fact the guidance is so taken for granted that on a recent ski trip there was the same discipline observed with no challenges. The quality of the accommodation is high with an increasing number of single en-suite rooms and security is unobtrusive but rigorous. The food was praised – there is lots of variety and, not surprisingly, an international or fusion flavour.

Students spoke warmly of the relationship between staff and students. After academic lessons finish, boarders' time is carefully structured when they are younger and becomes less so, as the habits become ingrained. Weekends are pretty packed with the school facilities being well used and plenty of day trips organised. Sixth formers can go into Birmingham on Saturdays if they wish. There is always a lot to do. 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. Everyone commented on what a close and warm community the lower school is and how welcoming the college is to newcomers.

Background and atmosphere

Not only is the site breathtaking, with its views and sympathetically designed modern buildings blending with the 18th century and medieval parts, but it is a site that looks loved. There seems to be an army of support maintenance staff who take as much pride in the site as the principal. The school responds quickly to new ideas. It is 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, where it was good to see the girls playing as leading a role as the boys. The initiative behind the new research lab was also something encouraged by the students themselves.

The school was founded after the Second World War as an attempt to start the healing process through language teaching and personal warmth. The word Concord means harmony and this principle value is still absolutely at the heart of the college today. It is an intellectual powerhouse but a calm and gentle one. Community and service are held in as much esteem as individual success.

Parents felt there was a slight difference between the atmosphere in the lower and upper parts of the school – which is to be expected. The lower school does have the genuine family feel. At sixth form level, the big influx of new students - some two-thirds of the school are sixth formers - results in some dissipation of this. One or two felt that the new students just saw Concord as a means to an end – top universities – and life was more hard edged. ‘But that’s what their lives are going to be like’, commented one parent philosophically.

Pastoral care, well-being and discipline

The worst thing that the principal can say to anyone is, ‘I am really disappointed in you’. The students want to please. They hold teachers in high regard and behavioural problems, even the low level class disruption that you often find in years 9 and 10, simply do not occur at Concord. ‘The students self regulate,’ staff told us. If occasionally a new student is not focussing in class, it is his classmates who get him in line. Students wear their own clothes and show that uniform has nothing to do with inner discipline and motivation. But everyone knows there are boundaries, and if someone brought drugs into the college, they would soon be heading out.

There is an impressive, all-embracing pastoral structure that 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 responsibilties. The school runs a self-esteem profile test on entry and the emphasis is on early identification of any problem, followed up with targeted support. It has a reputation for training young people to acquire the organisational skills needed for success and personal fulfilment. As it has grown, there is efficient use of electronic communications. Staff, students and parents assured us that there were a lot of safety nets in place in cases of concern. PSHE lessons with outside speakers reinforce key pastoral issues.

Pupils and parents

Parents are largely from the international business community. They choose Concord because they know results matter but so do the softer skills and a breadth of outlook. They are not families who want or need the social cache of a traditional English public school. These international parents are not interested in their children absorbing an English privileged culture – that is just a tiny part of their world, worth experiencing, yes, but so is all the other cultural exposure that Concord offers. Local Shropshire parents of day students are particularly keen on the cultural, racial and religious mix. Parents and students respond to the unpretentious atmosphere and the lack of historic baggage. There is an informal feel about the college, in part reinforced by the lack of uniform, that appeals but doesn’t dilute the palpable rigour.

The students clearly love the place and can’t speak highly enough of what it is giving them in terms of tools to build success. They pack their days with serious work and purposeful activity. About 80 of the 550 or so are from the UK and others come from a great variety of countries - the majority from Asia. The ones to whom we spoke were articulate and confident but unassuming – most just very natural and charming but among them, you could also spy the next mandarins – carefully considering our questions and weighing up their responses.

They are very aware of the opportunities they have been given to achieve academically in an environment that can offer more than at home. Many respond to the glorious countryside and some are just pleased to be away from the noise and distractions of city life.

Entrance

Entry in year 9, year 10 and year 12. Highly selective, particularly at sixth form level, and getting more so. There are three strands to admissions – tests (overseas students take the UKiset pre-test), school reports and interviews. Senior staff travel the world conducting interviews but if all else fails there is always Skype. Students joining year 12 need competent English; those coming in at 13+ have more time to get it up to standard. Many come from international schools where they are already learning in English.

Exit

The influence of the family background can be seen in the patterns of higher education choices. Parents have done well themselves in business and they value degrees in economics and finance as well as medicine, law, maths and the sciences. Having said that, more go on to study architecture than you would find elsewhere and the art department (though tiny) has considerable success with the London art schools. One boy was heading off for a bespoke tailoring course at Central St Martins when we visited. In 2017, 22 got into Oxbridge and there were 26 off to study medicine, with UCL and Imperial the most popular destinations. 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. The sixth formers get the chance to visit a number of universities and attend workshops and lectures. There is structured work for the various different entrance exams now required for different universities and different courses. Right from the start of the sixth form, there is a focus is on university entrance. The college makes excellent use of its international alumnae network to support current students in providing advice and opportunities for their next stage.

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. The school is working on developing its own bursaries and scholarships so it is not solely dependent on the wealthy elite, and some students attend on scholarships from their own government. Fees include being able to stay at half terms and for, sixth formers, during the Easter holidays. There is bursary support available for day students.

Our view

Concord is never going to suit a child who really doesn’t want to work and is made uneasy by a fierce pace of academic progress. It may not be right for a child who is solely interested in the arts and struggles with maths and sciences – not because they wouldn’t find high quality and wide ranging arts teaching but because they might not find enough like-minded peers. There is an English support department, but a student with weak English would undoubtedly struggle because of the pace of lessons.

It is as near perfect a place as you could want for the student who is scientifically academic. Parents whose child had suffered in a school where they were the only bookish one told us Concord had saved them from utter frustration. If you have ever looked round university campuses or watched groups of late teens and despaired at the culture of drinking, the lack of serious work or even serious thinking, the mindless use of social media, then visit Concord. This is where the next generation of global high flyers is being nurtured. If you want your offspring to have a chance in this stratosphere, want them to engage with issues outside the shores of the UK or just want them to make lifelong international friendships, then do look at Concord. It is in a league of its own and one that is increasingly in high world demand.

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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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