Stratford Hall was founded in the late 1990s by two Burnaby parents, Elaine Lee and Cindy Leung, who wanted a university preparatory option for their own children. The school opened in 2000 with only 40 students. Since then, it has added about 40 new students each year, making the current enrollment of 540 students from Kindergarten to Grade 12. In 2003, Stratford gained authorization for the International Baccalaureate (IB) Primary Years Programme: the first school in Western Canada to do so. That same year, Stratford Hall was accepted into the Independent Schools Association of BC, and later into the Canadian Association of Independent Schools in 2005. “In 2005, we achieved authorization for the IB Diploma Programme, ensuring that our first graduating class would be Diploma candidates. Four years later, we attained full authorization for our Middle Years Programme. We are now one of eight schools in the Lower Mainland, and one of 20 in Canada, to offer the IB Continuum Programme,” shares Ms. Meg Chamberlin, Senior School Principal, Stratford Hall.
Stratford Hall’s focus on student character and wellness is unparalleled. The school is committed to active global citizenship education, which nurtures students’ empathy and compassion towards themselves and others. This approach is grounded in the belief that character development is essential for personal and social growth, as well as for making a positive impact in the world. Located in the diverse and dynamic neighbourhood of East Vancouver, the school actively engages with the local community, collaborating with partners such as an elder’s home, a local sibling school serving a vulnerable population, the Immigrant Services Society of BC, MOSAIC (settlement and employment services for newcomers), and the New Fountain Shelter (a Downtown Eastside low-barrier homeless shelter). The school’s strong emphasis on character development is reflected throughout its academic and co-curricular programs and community engagement initiatives, all of which are grounded in the IB learner profile.
The school maintains a low student-teacher ratio, with a 1:20 ratio for K-5, 1:22 for grades 6-10, and an average class size of 1:10 for grades 11-12. “Our school has a dedicated team of learning support specialists, resource teachers, and educational assistants who work closely with our teachers to support students with diverse learning needs, ensuring that each student receives individualized and small-group differentiation. We have a fully inclusive view of education, and differentiation occurs in every classroom,” pinpoints Ms. Chamberlin. The Stratford Hall faculty members have undergone professional development on universal design for learning, which is integrated across all subjects and age groups.
The educators at Stratford Hall possess a broad range of qualifications, with each teacher holding certification from the Teacher Regulation Branch in British Columbia. Ms. Chamberlin says, “45% of our teaching faculty holds Masters degrees in diverse areas such as Curriculum, Administration, Leadership, Social Justice, and Human Security and Peacebuilding, among others. Additionally, several of our staff members are certified IB examiners.” The school provides ample opportunities for professional growth and development, including training in various areas such as International Baccalaureate curricula, restorative justice, Indigenous perspectives, and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.
The Tradition of Breaking the Tradition
The students at Stratford Hall consistently exceed expectations both inside and outside the classroom. “This year, our students had phenomenal results at the Pacific Model United Nations Conference, winning Best Delegate and Best Researched in two components. “Despite being the first year we have participated, we also earned 2nd place at the UBC Sauder School of Business CAP Case Competition,” proudly shares Ms. Chamberlin. One of the school’s most noteworthy initiatives is its mini-terms, which occur twice yearly. During these weeks, the regular timetable is suspended for interdisciplinary exploration, community engagement, design thinking, and inquiry-based projects. This program integrates essential elements of the MYP, DP, and BC curriculum that do not fit well into the school’s structured daily timetable. The activities include workshops on digital storytelling, escape room creation, film and improv, podcasting, dance, musical theatre, personal finance, higher-level course enrichments, mountain expeditions (skiing, tobogganing, snowshoeing), and science experimentation.
In addition, Stratford Hall is recognized for its exceptional student leadership in promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion. The school celebrates National Truth and Reconciliation Day, National Coming Out Day, Human Rights Day, Black History Month, International Mother Tongue Day, Anti-Bullying (Pink Shirt) Day, Earth Week, Asian Heritage Month, and National Indigenous History Month. The school community is committed to advancing advocacy, education, and leadership in these crucial areas through student-led activities and dialogue. “Our curriculum is inquiry-based. The emphasis on experiential learning, interdisciplinary projects, community engagement, and design permeates the students’ days from Kindergarten to Grade 12. Twice per year in the senior school, we move off schedule to mini-terms, providing flexible opportunities to engage in areas of learning that do not fit well into the regular timetable,” explains Ms. Chamberlin.
In addition, Stratford Hall boasts three distinct buildings that cater to its PYP, MYP, and DP programmes, each with its own unique purpose and features. The PYP building is designed to accommodate two classes per grade level. It includes a spacious gymnasium, a rooftop playground equipped with a hockey pad, a flexible learning and playing space, and a garden. The MYP building is an open-concept space that houses a full-sized gymnasium, state-of-the-art weight training facilities to support the athletics programme, a beautiful open library, purpose-built science labs, a rooftop garden and play area, as well as several breakout rooms for small group study. The DP building is home to a brand-new climbing wall designed to enhance the outdoor experiential education programme. Other features of the DP building include an IDEA lab (maker space), science labs, a theatre, and a media room. These facilities provide a solid foundation to support the school’s interdisciplinary programming and exceed the needs of its students.
Supporting the Long-Term Goals
The graduation classes of Stratford Hall have historically achieved a 100% acceptance rate, indicating that students who apply to post-secondary institutions receive at least one offer. The school offers a full-service Post-Secondary office to support students in their post-secondary aspirations. This office provides consultation services for students and families, advising them on course selection and career planning with an eye toward post-secondary options. Beginning in grade 9, students regularly participate in lessons on careers and post-secondary education and document preparation for applications and scholarships.
The Post-Secondary Advisors at Stratford Hall offer comprehensive support throughout the application process, including proofing written documents, submitting recommendation letters, and ensuring all necessary documentation is prepared for each student application. “Our Post-Secondary Advisors offer a wide range of lessons to assist students in selecting their best-fit opportunities, application procedures, and the art of transitioning from secondary to higher education and the world of work,” states Ms. Chamberlin. Stratford Hall’s Post-Secondary Advisors organize various events to facilitate students’ exploration of post-secondary and career opportunities. These events include a spring university fair, continuous communication of university visits to the campus, and career/education-related events in the Greater Vancouver area.
The school also offers a comprehensive parent/guardian learning series to ensure families are knowledgeable and engaged about academic, co-curricular, and social-emotional programming at Stratford Hall. Alongside curricular information on the PYP, MYP, DP, and Post-Secondary supports at the school, relevant and current family resources are provided across pertinent social and emotional topics. The student life, advisors, administration, and counselling teams work closely with families to ensure wellness is at the forefront of everything they do.
Tackling the Post-Pandemic Challenges
In recent years, especially during the pandemic, the education sector has undergone significant changes, particularly regarding a greater understanding of and attention to the mental wellness of students and staff. There has been a notable increase in resources devoted to professional development for faculty and staff in this area. Moreover, recent experiences have shown that student behaviour is more closely tied to their individual environment than their age, which has been further exacerbated by the unequal and varied impact of the pandemic on families.
“There is an essential need for greater social-emotional support for students and families, particularly in areas such as relationship development and consent, healthy coping skills, eating and sleeping habits, as well as digital citizenship and managing online behaviour. While these are not new challenges for young people, the pandemic has heightened the need for differentiated supports in these areas due to trauma and delayed social learning,” opines Ms. Chamberlin. Stratford Hall has implemented robust student support systems, including advisory (with a 1:11 teacher-to-student ratio), counselling, learning support, and parent/guardian learning series, which provide a framework for engaging with its students and families on these important topics.
To Make a Difference in the World
Stratford Hall’s overarching goal is to develop individuals who can positively impact the world. This is achieved through various avenues, including classroom learning, international trips, and stage performances while emphasizing the International Baccalaureate Learner Profile. As part of its commitments, Stratford Hall aims to maintain its focus on educating the whole child to the highest global standards while engaging its inclusive community and ensuring stable leadership. The school also aims to continuously improve in all aspects and establish meaningful relationships with its neighbours. Additionally, Stratford Hall is committed to promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) and environmental sustainability. “Tied to our Vision, Mission, and Values, we have developed a Bridge Plan with three specific goals that articulate the broad results that, when achieved, will move our school closer to our desired future. Under each goal, we have laid out key initiatives that we will undertake over the next 18 months to achieve our goals,” explains Ms. Chamberlin.
Goal 1: Education – Reaffirm our Identity
In the next 18 months, Stratford Hall will work collaboratively with its community to revisit its mission, vision, and values to ensure they accurately reflect the school’s essence. As a school recognized for its challenging and innovative approach to learning, Stratford Hall is committed to engaging students in experiential learning and exploring opportunities to enrich its co-curricular programming. The school aims to identify and communicate its unique qualities by renewing its mission, vision, and values statements. Additionally, Stratford Hall will embed a focus on Indigenous reconciliation into its programs and practices. These initiatives are aligned with the school’s overarching goal of educating the ‘whole child.’
Goal 2: Community – Reignite Our Culture
Stratford Hall recognizes the importance of student health and well-being in promoting successful learning and growth. The school is committed to providing individualized care and support to establish the foundation for a fulfilling and purposeful life. The school attributes much of its success to its dedicated faculty and staff. In line with its student-centred learning approach, Stratford Hall prioritizes attracting, developing, and retaining exceptional employees from diverse backgrounds and experiences. “School spirit refers to the sense of pride, identity, and community we all share. It is essential to who we are and how we represent our school. We will strengthen our community together and reignite our culture,” pinpoints Ms. Chamberlin. Stratford Hall aims to strengthen its community and reinvigorate its culture by enhancing school structures that support mental health and well-being, improving family engagement through transparent communication, and promoting diversity, equity, and inclusivity through education and dialogue.
Goal 3: Growth – Reinforce Our Organization
As a young and dynamic school, Stratford Hall recognizes the value of its unique East Vancouver location and is poised for a strong future with the recent acquisition of the middle building. The school is currently exploring the most effective use of this new space to support the evolving needs of its students and community. “We continue to be committed to ensuring the financial strength and sustainability of our school and enhancing the culture of philanthropy to support and develop opportunities that will strengthen the Stratford Hall experience,” shares Ms. Chamberlin. Stratford Hall will focus on responsible governance and strong leadership practices to ensure a stable future for our school.
For More Info: https://www.stratfordhall.ca/
About Ms. Meg Chamberlin, Senior School Principal, Stratford Hall
Ms. Meg Chamberlin is a trilingual educator with a passion for global citizenship education. She has taught across five continents and various curricula and has traveled, worked, and volunteered in fifty countries. Ms. Chamberlin holds a BSc in Chemistry, BEd in Secondary Education, Advanced French Language Diploma, and MA in Human Security and Peacebuilding. Having taught in secondary schools since 2005 (Chemistry, French, Physics, Math, Geology, Geography, Environmental Science, Yoga, and Service Learning), and after a decade of experience working with local and global stakeholders, Ms. Chamberlin became interested in supporting further research into the development and leadership of ethical and impactful community engagement, service learning, and cultural programs for young people. She completed her MA thesis exploring the impact of international service learning on adolescents. Whenever possible, Ms. Chamberlin is outdoors exploring the ocean and mountains through back-country and alpine skiing, rock climbing, hiking, SUP, canoeing, and photography.