Starting a new international school in central London was the bold decision taken by Halcyon’s four founding parents, ten years ago. Going against the corporate grain, they made the school not-for-profit, with the only stakeholders our students, parents and staff.
Rita Halbright, Achim Beck, Pamela Sears and Julie Matthaeus, whose backgrounds include the energy, banking and charity sectors, all had a vision for a new type of school. One that took a holistic approach to education, where developing students’ social and emotional skills was as crucial to their academic success as their personal development. They also wanted to follow an International Baccalaureate curriculum, with an innovative approach.
At first, some prospective parents were unsure of something new and different. But Rita, Julie, Achim, and Pamela’s dedication and vision overcame this. With financial support from some 30 other families, Halcyon London opened its doors in September 2013 to 34 students and six teachers.
“At first, some prospective parents were unsure of something new and different.”
Ten years on, we are a community of more than 50 staff and almost 200 students from local and London-based families worldwide, including the US and Far East. Our focus is providing the academic credentials and character development students need for modern life.
We follow the International Baccalaureate Middle Years Programme (MYP, ages 11-16) and Diploma Programme (DP, ages 16-18). All students take a second language, maths, English, social science and natural science until the age of 18. They do a lot of collaborative work, but also personal projects during the MYP and extended essays as part of the DP.
Students have written about everything from Nietzsche’s influence on Stanley Kubrick to the effect of the circadian rhythm on levels of troponin in the blood. These longer pieces of work are excellent preparation for university essays and dissertations.
“We’re very keen that learning always has a real-world context.”
At Halcyon London we consistently beat world average IB scores. Students have gone on to Russell Group universities, including Oxbridge, LSE, Imperial and King’s College London, and Ivy League colleges, such as Dartmouth. They’ve also attended prestigious arts institutes, such as the Rhode Island School of Design and the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire.
We’re very keen that learning always has a real-world context. For instance, our Environmental Science students have been doing research on Partula snail and hedgehog conservation alongside scientists at London Zoo, witnessing first-hand the application of what they’re learning . Other students have designed clothes to learn about insulation and learnt about economics by looking at the impact of Covid.
We’re based in Marylebone, so students can use Hyde Park for outdoor lessons and PE. We strongly encourage students to arrive via public transport rather than school bus, to help develop their independence and act sustainably. Our canteen is completely vegetarian.
“All staff are trained as cognitive coaches.”
Being not-for-profit allows us to reinvest all profits in staff, students and activities, and be fleet of foot in our decisions.
All staff are trained as cognitive coaches, meeting their students regularly to help them with emotional, social and academic challenges. We use restorative practice, rather than punishments, to empower students to take responsibility for repairing relationships and addressing their emotional, intellectual and cultural blind spots.
“At Halcyon you can work across cultures, throughout the community, to ensure that students have as wide and varied school experience as is possible,” says our wellbeing lead Nito Harvey.
Every child has a personal learning mentor and there’s an open door policy for any parents who want to reach out to me, as director.
All students work on a tablet or laptop, just as they are likely to do in the workplace. Technology is integrated throughout school life. We have one of the few dedicated digital coaches in the country, who works with teachers to incorporate tech into teaching and learning.
“We’ve set up a staff innovation team, to investigate how AI can help teaching and assessment.”
In a recent design lesson, for example, students created AI-generated carnival masks to celebrate Black History Month. We use tech to assess students too, such as a lesson in which they demonstrated what they had learned about a topic by curating the exhibits and information displays for a virtual museum.
Halcyon is accredited as a Google Reference School, a recognition of its use of tech to boost learning, and an Apple Training Centre. We’ve also established a staff innovation team, which is further investigating how AI can help teaching and assessment.
We all think of ourselves as learners at Halcyon, whether staff or student, as the school develops. Celebrating our tenth anniversary, we are very proud of what we add to the UK’s education sector.
More information: Halcyon London International School.