Who would have thought setting up a school in China, in the middle of a pandemic, with stricter rules on international style education, was a good idea? Well, two months in and Wycombe Abbey Hangzhou has beaten all of the odds.
We are a school of just over 320 and our pupils and teachers have made an excellent start. Our recent open day was buzzing with prospective parents, keen to know and understand more about us as a holistic boarding school.
“Retaining staff is then the next big challenge, but we have planned this from the onset.”
Setting up Wycombe Abbey Hangzhou was a hugely rewarding experience and whilst there were many challenges on the way, it was a collaborative effort. Early on, we decided to recruit from within China and so the drive to find experienced and talented staff began early on.
Retaining staff is then the next big challenge, but we have again planned this from the onset. We set up a social committee and made sure there is a staff common room with a bar, pool table, table tennis table, BBQ and lots of seating areas for our events such as quiz, jazz and cheese evenings and sports nights.
The school is set in a beautiful location and although it is just under an hour outside of the city, it is set next to a lake and surrounded by the bamboo mountains. There is a small town within walking distance for essentials and the school provides a social bus to Hangzhou each Saturday. In this way, staff and families have the opportunity for some retail therapy and delicious food.
For those who prefer to stay on site, we have a 25 metre swimming pool, fitness suite and there are three meals provided each day, with western, Chinese and a special cuisine menu available each day.
Regarding the curriculum, we are delighted that two months in we have been accredited by Edexcel and Cambridge and this supports our iGCSE and A-level options. In the Wycombe Abbey Hangzhou Lower School, we also follow the Cambridge curriculum for English and for our topic lessons we use the IPC, an enquiry-based curriculum where the pupils build on their knowledge and develop skills to research, interpret and create projects.
“Our pupils are rooted in their Chinese identity whilst becoming global citizens.”
We also follow the Chinese National Curriculum, during the compulsory education stage and this gives our children an excellent grounding in the Chinese subjects. This supports one of our core values, Chinese identity, where our pupils are rooted in their home identity whilst becoming global citizens.
As a boarding school, we are the masters of time. This time allows us to cover the blended curriculums as well as focus on the holistic subjects; art, music, drama and sport. We have already hosted our sister school, Wycombe Abbey Changzhou, for a weekend of sports workshops, focusing on contact rugby and netball with a tournament.
Holistic education helps develop resilience, confidence, teamwork, problem solving and creativity in a fun and safe environment. We want to find the spark in every child and build confidence by getting them onto the stage to perform and giving them the opportunity to practise in pressurized situations. All this, of course, with the safety net of being with our supportive staff and environment where mistakes can be made without consequences.
Each evening we have staff sports, which the Upper School pupils are also invited to. Our weekend programme also sees the boarders going off-site hiking and to activity parks.
“If we have been able to open and make such a successful start, there is no reason why others can’t follow suit.”
Starting a school has been such a roller-coaster ride, however the staff have become an incredibly tight-knit group in such a short space of time and the children have adapted to their new environment superbly. With behaviour management practices in place, we now turn our eye to academics and ensuring our staff are all well supported in the classroom.
The work that the children have already done shows great progression and we are shortly embarking on a 16 module tailor-made collaborative CPD programme with the Boarding Schools Association (BSA), which will be available to our Chinese and expatriate staff.
Building trust with our parents, children and staff was something we had to get right. We have always been very transparent about our practices, our ethos and we have worked tirelessly to ensure the well-being of our stakeholders is at the fore of what we do. The next few years look really promising and others should be positive about the future. If we have been able to open our doors and make such a successful start, there is no reason why others can’t follow suit.