‘A road of a thousand miles begins with one step. Let us put every effort into the journey to make Concord shine.’ So says Yingping Xie, Honorary General Principal of the new Shanghai Concord Bilingual School which will open its doors to 150 Chinese 11 year olds and 50 15 year olds in September.
Concord College Shanghai Bilingual School is a collaboration between the Huangpu District Government of Shanghai and a local partner, Francis Ping, and Concord College, Shropshire’s international school located at Acton Burnell.
Discussions about the project have been in progress for several years and finding the right site for Shanghai’s first international private school was finally the trigger to setting everything in motion.
The building which will initially house Concord Bilingual is an existing school situated in a prime position in the very centre of Shanghai which has a population of 28 million.
The two storey premises are currently being totally renovated and extensively refurbished to provide a temporary school site for the next four years when Concord Bilingual will move to a purpose-built college with full boarding accommodation for students and staff.
In the neighbourhood of the present school is the Bund and Xintiandi – the ‘Westminster’ of Shanghai - and the Huangpu District is where Shanghai’s regional culture originates and as the first honorary general principal of Concord Bilingual Mr. Xie says he has focused on thinking about its mission.
“That is, what is the outstanding feature that we are looking for in establishing this premier international school? My answer is that we are aiming to combine the very best of the Chinese education system with that of the UK.”
Gail Denham, retired Head of the Lower School at Concord College, which she describes as a ‘very special place,’ has been appointed as the Executive Principal of Concord Bilingual and takes up the story.
“This is a dream come true for Concord College and a number of people including Chairman Francis Ping, a Concord alumni and one of the first students from mainland China to be educated at Shropshire’s international school in 1998.
“The school will be unique because it will be combining the Chinese core curriculum with western GCSEs and A levels and is the first school of its kind in Shanghai.
“Staff recruitment is well underway and we have all our British heads of departments for maths, English, physics, chemistry and art. We have seven British staff and 10 Chinese.
“The Chinese staff is bi-lingual and one of our British teachers is fluent in Chinese and will give staff lessons. Our eventual aim is to be truly bilingual.”
She went on: “At the moment, we are only recruiting 11 year olds and 15 year olds which is the first year of middle school and the first year of high school. We shall build from there.
“The 150 11 year olds and 50 15 year olds will do one year of GCSE and then go on to A level I 2019. The idea is that in the middle school students will study the core curriculum in Chinese which will allow them to take the Zhongkao exam which allows them access into Chinese high schools and then on to Chinese universities.
If they wish to take the western route it is at that point they move into our high school and take GCSEs and A levels which gives them access to British, American and Australian universities.”
Mrs. Denham said she expressed ‘surprise’ when Concord Principal Neil Hawkins approached her to become the first principal of the school. “I went there for a week with my husband to meet the team and to view the school premises. It was such an exciting proposition. It wasn’t a difficult decision to make.”
Francis says his days at Concord College left him with ‘beautiful memories’ and described the mix of students who in his day came from over 40 countries as the kind of ‘cultural inheritance’ which today gives ‘Concord its unique and special feel.’
He added: “Every time I recall my days at Concord it feels like yesterday. Concord really did mark a new start in my life. I am so grateful to have experienced a school with such a close community that I am willing to share my own experience.
“In the past decade, more than a hundred students whom I have recommended to Concord have gone on to their dream university and have found the career path which suits them best.”
He added: “I intend the Shanghai Concord Bilingual School to educate students in line with our motto ‘To strive for excellence in all we do and in all that we are.’
“The two schools are now sister schools and Concord College is committed to assisting its comrade in achieving top academic standards.
“The mission of Concord Bilingual is to educate students into people who understand Chinese culture and at the same time have a global perspective so that they can contribute fully to the development of our nation.”
Final word from Concord Principal Neil Hawkins: “I feel honoured that the college has the opportunity to help the Huangpu District to set up Concord Bilingual School under the skilled leadership of its founding Executive Principal Mrs. Gail Denham.
“Working in partnership, Concord College and Shanghai Concord Bilingual School will pursue an educational philosophy that will prepare its pupils for the challenges of the 21st century.
“After all, many of the jobs this generation will perform have not been invented so our young people will need to be adaptable, creative and ready for change. This is the vision I have for our wonderful partnership with Shanghai Concord Bilingual School.”