Dating back to the 1950s, Concord College has a long legacy of excellence in education in Europe. It was established after the Second World War by Mr Paul Oertel and Miss Monica Carr-Taylor as a small privately-owned language school just outside Hastings in Sussex. Here, they started the college as a centre for language teaching and personal warmth to break down barriers and misunderstandings between people that occurred due to the war. The college soon moved to larger and more conducive premises at Tunbridge Wells in Kent.
Living up to its name, Concord, which means harmony, emphasises the need to have a smooth and peaceful and family-friendly environment for good quality education that has improved the welfare and academic success of the students. The college continued to grow slowly, and in 1969 upon the retirement of the founder Principals, the college was bought by Mr Frank Bell, who had founded the Bell School of Languages several years earlier. In 1973 the college moved again to its present site at Acton Burnell in Shropshire.
Frank Bell had been a prisoner of war in WW2 and, during his time in captivity, began teaching fellow prisoners – something that was forbidden by his captors. He believed firmly that education was the greatest hope for the world. Back in Cambridge, England, Bell wrote about his captivity and his belief in education in an Undercover University (1991): “I am convinced more than ever that herein lies the greatest hope for the future of mankind, in the friendly co-operation that is found in the study and in learning, as in no other sphere of life; enmity and jealousy cannot flourish when the welfare of common humanity is in view.”Concord College strives every day to provide an education where able minds can flourish and where that common humanity is everywhere seen and felt.
Today, Concord College has grown to become one of the best schools in Europe, thus making it to the list of 10 Must-Watch International Schools in Europe in 2022. “Our new 21-laboratory state-of-the-art science building, the Hawkins Building, includes a special projects lab and also has group discussion / social spaces and a range of interactive science exhibits. This inspiring building, equipped beyond the requirements of the UK curriculum, allows students to explore their scientific interests guided by specialist staff and technicians and with practical demonstrations and experiments to bring science to life. Many of our Sixth Form students choose to devise and conduct scientific or technological projects as part of their work towards the Extended Project Qualification (EPQ),” says Dr Michael Truss, Principal of Concord College.
Concord College’s Art students benefit from beautiful and inspiring studio spaces which overlook Acton Burnell Castle and the Parliament Barn: the site of England’s first parliament where King Edward I met barons and commoners in the late thirteenth century. The bright, well equipped, and inspiring studio spaces allow students to percolate creative potential that is supported by experienced staff and help students produce exceptional work. The historic Main Hall (Acton Burnell Hall) is a fitting centrepiece of the college; serious and significant yet accessible to all. It houses the Principal’s office and the offices of many of the Senior Management Team and is home to two grand pianos in public spaces where students practise or play for fun to share their musical talents with the college. From upstairs, staff and students can overlook the beauty and serenity of the 73-acre campus and the greenery of the surrounding Shropshire landscape.
A modern, well equipped, purpose-built library in the Jubilee Block houses books, periodicals and digital materials and also provides both silent and collaborative workspaces for all the different study needs of our students and their courses. Professional library staff are on hand to help, in addition to a dedicated team of student Library Prefects selected each academic year. Concord’s main campus (plus other satellite spaces) provides a tranquil space for reflection and relaxation and the opportunity for outdoor recreation. There are two sports halls, two gyms, a swimming pool, squash courts, tennis, badminton and basketball courts, and an athletics track for physical activity. There are also beautifully maintained soccer pitches, a climbing wall and a high-ropes assault course.
While sport is largely a recreation and health-orientated focus here, with everyone encouraged to take part, the college does have competitive teams for a range of sports (Soccer, Netball, Badminton, Basketball, for example) and a highly enjoyable annual Inter-House competition. For students who play sport at a high level, the Sports Department facilitates an ‘Elite Sports Programme’ every year for the college’s most-promising sportspeople. Support covers a mixture of performance, competition and training components, including sport-specific strength and conditioning work, personal training, nutritional advice, access to physiotherapy, psychology and sports mentoring, as well as kit, transport and flexible study where required. The sports staff work with local clubs and regional bodies to support them as well. This currently includes provision for students involved in representative athletics, swimming, golf, cricket and fencing, and in the past, has even included a Formula 4 (F4) racing driver.
The college’s modern theatre building, the Morris Building, provides a hub for the performing arts, housing not only the main theatre but also classrooms and practice spaces. It is also home to the Music School with individual and group practice spaces and a superb recording studio. Students have access to popular purpose-built social spaces such as the “West-End” common room, an outdoor amphitheatre and the student kitchen. Meals are provided in the spacious dining room, which serves a fantastic internationally inspired menu and caters for all dietary requirements.
A Millenium Ahead
Concord is both academically selective but adaptable to students’ own background in the selection and is also holistic, ensuring that students are nurtured as whole individuals. Dr Truss says, “Concord College is a very exciting place to be a young person. The beauty and tranquillity of its stunning campus in the English countryside provide a perfect backdrop for an international community of like-minded people to study and grow. Our community shares a culture of excellence and joyful learning infused throughout with the rigour, kindness and creativity that are expressed in our aims and reflected in our efforts every single day.”
The academic standards at Concord College are exceptionally high as students love to learn and are ambitious for their futures. At Concord, they are able to pursue their dreams in a safe, calm and supportive place where ideas can be shared and where inquisitiveness and independence of thought are celebrated. Students’ hard work is rewarded with outstanding GCSE and A-Level results, and Concord is annually ranked very highly in UK school league tables. More importantly, however, Concordians go on from here equipped to thrive at the best universities in the UK and around the world.
Excellent results give students the ability to continue to access the very best opportunities when they move on to the next stage of their lives, but results alone are not what sets Concord apart. Concordians live and learn in a diverse, vibrant and truly international community supported by outstanding academic and pastoral staff. They have daily opportunities through their extensive co-curricular, sporting, arts, social and cultural programmes to develop hugely important skills in communication, teamwork and social responsibility. “The result of this is that Concordians are overwhelmingly confident, empathetic, respectful and tolerant. Most importantly of all, it means they are happy: you will find many smiling faces here,” says Dr Truss.
Concord students come from around the world. With 42 nationalities represented in the current student body, there is no single nationality that forms a majority of students. Most students (over 80%) are boarders, but day students are fully integrated into the life of the college and enjoy making life-long international friendships. Academically, the results speak for themselves. Not only do Concord students produce astonishing GCSE and A level performances, but they also go on to attend top universities in the UK and around the world. In 2021, 94% of A Level grades were A*/A (98% A*/B). For GCSE results, 66% of grades awarded were grade 9 or equivalent (94% were grade 7 or higher).
Having the Best for the Best
Concord is highly academically selective, receiving more applications than it has a place for. The selection of students is based on a range of factors, including an applicant’s performance in public exams, Concord’s own entrance tests and analysis of information that candidates provide, including their school reports. In some cases, an interview with a senior member of the College staff (often the Principal) is arranged. As a school with over 80% international students, Concord is very aware that students’ educational backgrounds vary widely. “We, therefore, look at an application as a whole rather than relying solely on entrance test scores. Overall academic performance, aptitude and interest all play a part in admissions decisions. Ultimately, our admissions process is geared toward finding the capable students who will flourish at Concord,” says Dr Truss.
The college has a particularly strong record of placing students in Engineering, Economics and Maths courses. Medicine is also a particularly competitive course. In 2021, 26 students gained places at medical, dental or veterinary schools. With this said, the destinations and extraordinary outcomes of students span across a whole variety of disciplines. Students this year went on to world-class universities, including 11 students who won places at Oxford or Cambridge, 19 at Imperial College London, 40 at University College London, 8 at the London School of Economics and Political Science and 15 at Kings College London. Throughout their time at Concord, students have access to super-curricular opportunities, including teacher-led specialist subject clubs, discussion groups and societies focussing on particular vocations such as medicine, law or engineering. Through these, students at every stage get an insight into the possibilities that are open to them. For example, Concord’s medical society feeds into its specialist Medicine Support Programme, which supports prospective medical students with guidance, information and unique opportunities to meet medical specialists and enhance their applications.
University Coordinators who have more in-depth knowledge of certain Universities such as Oxford or Cambridge then meet with interested students. Students are also guided by their Personal Tutor, their Head of House, and their specialist subject teachers. During Pre-U Week in June, there are talks on how to complete the UCAS form and to effectively write a personal statement. There are workshops on applications to universities such as Durham and Imperial and options to visit a university of interest. Further support is given for admissions test preparation. As part of the careers programme, students are given access to a leading online portal that facilitates detailed research into university courses in the UK, the US, Hong Kong and beyond. There is also a wide range of resources available on Concord’s Virtual Learning Environment, such as guides regarding the application, courses offered, likely grade requirements, university league tables etc.
A number of universities also visit Concord each year to give talks to students, in addition to a number of medical schools. “We also have visits from representatives of Imperial College London, UCL, LSE, King’s College London and from Oxford or Cambridge. Such visits are a further source of information to guide students through the application process,” shares Dr Truss.
Focusing on Providing Personalised Education
The teacher-to-student ratio at the college is 1:6. Concord’s average class size in the Lower School is 16 students and for the Sixth Form, 12 students. These small numbers are implemented to optimise opportunities for class teaching and learning, individual support and feedback, as well as productive discussion and debate. However, depending on the subject and students’ varying timetables, classes usually range from 6 to 16 students.
In addition to leading support from Concord’s highly qualified teaching staff during lessons, individual support is always available to students – with staff going above and beyond in their dedication to aid their students’ understanding of the curriculum and interests/insights beyond, such as higher education and real-world scenarios. Students are also encouraged to make use of Support Clinics after the school day, to cover any areas where support is required, or to further their understanding. As well with the help of staff, each subject taught at the College benefits from a team of student Subject Mentors, who are on hand to offer support to their peers.
Concord provides an environment where academically minded students flourish, and 98% of Concordians achieve A*-B grades at the A level. Concord seeks to nurture the individuality of students to develop their self-confidence. Students receive differentiated learning for English where this is appropriate, for example, where English is not their first language. For students wishing to pursue a qualification in their own language, the College endeavours to assist where it has appropriately qualified support. For example, currently, students are able to be supported in Chinese (Mandarin and Cantonese), Russian, French and German. All who study at Concord have a joyful love for learning – which makes teaching and learning for staff just as enjoyable.
“Creativity is embedded in our ethos and is one of Concord’s three pillars. Concord considers creativity in its broadest sense to be important, from Performing Arts and traditionally creative subjects to problem-solving in science and mathematics. An innovative Form 3 (UK Year 9, equivalent to grade 8) curriculum lays the foundations and GCSE, and A level curricula are approached through a carefully scaffolded exploration of the knowledge and skills required not only to answer factual questions but to develop a mastery of the subject,” shares Dr Truss.
Through Concord’s super-curriculum of activities, clubs and clinics, students are encouraged to explore their studies beyond the syllabus to enhance their breadth and depth of understanding and develop their skills of creative and critical thinking. By following their own academic interests, students begin to appreciate that learning is a process over which they take ownership, rather than something which is ‘done to them.’
Art is a popular and successful subject at Concord, and the portfolios of Concord’s students often lead them to prestigious destinations. Equally, the performing arts are also highly valued at Concord. “We host an annual concerto competition for young musicians and numerous concert nights, many of which are led by our students. Drama and musicals are popular and often innovative; the college creates a spectacular annual showcase that celebrates elements of students’ cultural interests and backgrounds.” Dr Truss says.
Concord College is a member of the Boarding Schools Association, Society of Heads, and Independent Schools Council and is an ESU oracy affiliate school. Concord was delighted to be awarded a Microsoft Showcase School status 2021-22, having graduated from Microsoft’s Incubator Programme. The college was also a finalist in the Independent Schools of The Year awards in 2021 for its innovative and effective Student Careers Programme. The college was a Good Schools Guide 2021 Top 20 Independent Secondary School and was a finalist in the European School category in the Study Travel Secondary School Awards 2022. They are also a member of the Cyber Resilience Centre for the West Midlands.
Guiding Parents for Holistic Education
Over 80% of students at Concord College come from outside of the UK, thus having a wealth of experience in helping families support their children at a distance. The results of the weekly tests that students take are made available to parents so that they stay just as much in the loop academically as if the students were at home. Dedicated Boarding Parents focus on providing boarders with the emotional and practical support that they need when they are away from home and liaise between home and school. Many major school events are either live-streamed or made available afterwards so that parents can share in them. Of course, visits to Concord can be arranged for parents if they have the opportunity to be in the UK.
Concord also offers support to students via Heads of Year in the Lower School and via our House system in the Upper School. Medical provision is available 24 hours a day; there is a modern and well-equipped medical centre and a dedicated nursing team. Mental health is taken very seriously, and support and counselling are available. The campus is secure, and security staff are on duty at all times.
Concord College’s staff are highly qualified experts in their subjects; all have relevant degrees, and many have post-graduate qualifications (Masters / PhD) too, alongside additional qualifications in teaching and specialist skills. Professional development is individual, and staff are encouraged to further their skills and experience. In recent times, many have pursued extra courses/qualifications to help them progress in their careers and to develop their teaching skills.
Their Outlook for Education
“The level of our ambitions matches that of our students, and we believe that by any measure, Concord College is a world-class institution. We will continue to embrace and expand our internationalism. In all that we do, and at all times, we will strive for excellence without compromising our ethical values of the importance of kindness or our academic standards.” shares Dr Truss. Concord College aims to become a world leader in the education of bright children. “Put simply, if your child loves learning, is hard-working and ambitious for their future, you should consider sending them to Concord. If your child is not only academically gifted but wants to lead and affect positive change in the world, we want Concord to be your number one choice,” he adds.
For More Info: https://concordcollegeuk.com/
About Dr Michael Truss, Principal
Dr Michael Truss took up the position of Principal of Concord College in September 2021. He studied as a Theobald Scholar in Physics at Balliol College, Oxford, continuing his journey in academia with a PhD in Theoretical Astrophysics at the University of Leicester and a postdoctoral fellowship in Astrophysics at the University of St Andrews, specialising in the modelling of gas flows near black holes. Different university roles followed in the UK and abroad with an increasing emphasis on education and university admissions, eventually leading to a move into teaching at Bedales School in the UK, where he became Head of Mathematics and Head of Academic Enrichment. From 2015, he was Deputy Head (Academic) at Barnard Castle School, where he had overall responsibility for all aspects of academic life, overseeing a rise in top grades at A-Level and a redevelopment of the academic curriculum. He remains a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society (FRAS).
With a wealth of experience in top universities as well as in schools, Dr Truss’ educational philosophy is focused on the primacy and nurture of each student’s individual strengths. He knows that students achieve highly when they feel happy, safe and enjoy what they are studying in a vibrant environment that celebrates excellence and surrounds them with kindness and like-minded people.