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Britannica - Shanghai’s New British Style Education

May, 2013
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“Everything is well under schedule; the completion of the renovations and handover of new campus will be in August and our new school will officially start in September,” said Alun Rees Thomas, Founding Principal of Britannica International School Shanghai.

alun2The new school is situated within the high quality residential and educational area of Gubei/Hongqiao. Alun jokingly said it is one best selling point for his new school. “Many children who currently have to travel 45 minutes to an hour on school bus every day, that means they have to give up some of their extracurricular activities or they have to come home much later and finish their homework even later. That doesn’t offer many choices for these children to play and enjoy themselves as we can offer at Britannica.”

The school campus is redesigned and partly redeveloped initially, and some reconstruction to incorporate the theatre, indoor heated swimming pool that is rarely available in a downtown school. There are three specialist Science laboratories and three state-of-the-art Information Technology laboratories. There are also specialist Art and Design, Drama, Music, and Physical Education facilities. The sports facilities include a large and well-equipped indoor sports hall and an indoor heated swimming pool. The outdoor facilities include a football pitch, basketball court, and a running track. The school also has a library and a spacious dining room.

“Britannica has educational facilities of the highest quality. The school campus is a safe and secure environment for every child,” Alun said.

In common with most British international schools worldwide, Britannica International School Shanghai will offer the English National Curriculum, in particular with regard to numeracy and literacy, science and ICT; and keeps very closely to the English National Curriculum in the Primary stage. In the Foundation stage, nursery and reception, Britannica will offer the Foundation stage curriculum as it is in the UK with all the learning goes in place. For the Foundation subjects like history and geography combining music and art, the school tends to operate with what is currently called in the UK "the Creative Curriculum". That means the teacher will plan a unit of study around a particular topic showing the relevant history and geography and apply the art and music and even physical education to it. In Key Stage 3, it is preparatory program same as in the UK, getting the students ready to select their subjects when they move on to the Cambridge University International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE) in Years 10 and 11 and then the International Baccalaureate (IB) Examinations leading to British and international university entrance.

campus-view1Any international school should pay close attention to the benefits from learning the local culture and modern languages. Britannica offers an extensive language programs including Mandarin, French and English. Mandarin teaching across all Key Stages includes Mandarin as a Foreign Language and Mandarin for Native Speakers. All the students learn Mandarin at their appropriate level. In addition they learn about traditional festivals and customs, develop an understanding of Chinese culture and study the best of Chinese literature.

The teaching of French at Britannica offers opportunities for students to understand and communicate in French.

Britannica also provides an English as an Additional Language program for pupils whose first language is not English and who require additional help with the English language in order to access the mainstream curriculum successfully. The EAL program operates across all Key Stages and at different levels to cater for a pupil’s individual needs and requirements.

“It is our responsibility to make children of every nationality to be aware of the rich cultural heritage they are privileged to have.”

The school has hired 15 teachers for the opening stage. As a typical British international school, most of Britannica teachers have British international school teaching experience or relevance to the subjects or level of their teaching. In the Primary School, Britannica has hired exclusively British teachers with British international school experience. In the Secondary School, there are also teachers from Australia and the USA.

“We have staffed and resourced the school to the level we believe is good. Hopefully, we will have children in every class from Nursery to Year 9, which is the intake as we planned. If the enrollment exceeds what we anticipated, we will hire more teachers,” said Alun. He shared that every school he has worked with started off with a reasonable growth. In the beginning, maybe the team sport or activity is not a good option until the class is fuller. However, there is a distinctive advantage to the new school that is the very small teacher student ratio. With the student number going up, in Nursery up to Year 3, Britannica will have a teacher and a teaching assistant in the classroom. So, the adult student ratio will be still small at about 8-9:1.

Being an international school in Shanghai, China, it usually means a majority of Asian students on campus. Fortunately, their Founding Principal Alun has brought to the new school his knowledge of having worked internationally for 40 years, especially with last 20 years in Asia and recent posts in administrating international schools in Thailand, South Korea and Vietnam.

“I have worked very cooperatively with Vietnamese and Korean parents and Thai parents and established very good relationships with them. I have good knowledge of the high expectations of Asian parents have for their children. The families are very keen to have a good curriculum, which is something that we value in addition to the course subjects delivered in the classroom. We want to provide the child with rounded experience as possible, both inside and outside the classrooms.”

Meanwhile, his believes the vast majority of Asian students can very rapidly catch up with native English speakers because of their work ethic . “I actually had the experience of one Korean boy, who joined my last school with very little English when joining the Year 10. Within two years, he received 11 A* in IGCSE and last year graduated from the school with 43 points in IB.”

He also emphasizes the right attitude of the student and strong parental support is the key to their success. When there is strong parental support for the students, their achievement is higher.

Despite the fact that Shanghai enjoys a strong presence of British education schools, Alun is confident his new school will bring the best of British education to Shanghai and become one of the best schools in town.

“My vision for the first year is that Britannica International School Shanghai will have an impact on the international education system here, and we will become a viable option to other leading international schools,” said Principal Alun. “I would expect that in the 2nd year, we will more than double our student population.”

One attractive message has been announced at the first press conference at Hilton Hotel on April 24: The tuition fees of Britannica International School Shanghai will be about 20-25% per cent lower than other British international schools. And that is a long-term policy. What’s more, 5% Discount is available for Founder Parents until 30 June; and sibling discount is also provided.

For interested families, school tours can be arranged nowadays.

“I have an open door policy, parents can come to see me at anytime,” Alun extended his welcome to all.

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