Concord was founded in 1949 after WW2 by Mr Paul Oertel and Miss Monica Carr-Taylor, just outside Hastings in Sussex, as a small privately-owned language school. It was at its heart, a response to the hatred and bitterness of war by using language teaching and personal warmth to break down barriers and misunderstandings between peoples. The college soon moved to larger and more conducive premises at Tunbridge Wells in Kent and expanded to offer A Levels. The word Concord means ‘harmony’ and the first generation of students remember a family friendly atmosphere in which the joint Principals worked tirelessly for the welfare and academic success of their students.
The college continued to grow slowly and in 1969 upon the retirement of the founder Principals, the college was bought by Mr Frank Bell who had founded the Bell School of Languages a number of years earlier. In 1973 the college moved again to its present site at Acton Burnell and a major programme of expansion began. Student numbers rose from the 90 students who came to Acton Burnell in 1973, to 200 by the 1980s. The expansion of the College at this time enabled improvements to the facilities including the provision of a library, a gymnasium (now the current Library), engineering workshop and science laboratories.
In 1977 Concord accepted girls for the first time, although they were taught at a separate site, in part of the nearby Attingham Park stately home (now run by the National Trust). By the early 1980s the girls were integrated on the site at Acton Burnell.
In 1983, in one of the most significant moments in Concord’s development, the college became a charitable trust. A board of trustees rather than an owner was now responsible for the strategic direction of the college and a period of expansion and improvement of the facilities began. Mr Tony Morris had taken over as Principal in 1975 from Mr Martin Horwood and it was Mr Morris’s vision and guidance that enabled the college to fulfil its ambitious aims in these important years. In order to attract the most able students a substantial scholarship programme was introduced and by 2002 Concord was among the top fifty schools in the country.
In 1995 it was decided to open a Lower School to offer GCSE courses for students under 16. From its own small beginnings the Concord Lower School has developed and expanded. Each year our Lower School continues to achieve outstanding GCSE results, the best in Shropshire, and now attracts top students from both the local area and overseas.With the retirement of Mr Morris in 2005, Mr Neil Hawkins was appointed Principal of the college. Since 2005, the College has grown very considerably both in numbers, the number of subjects offered, the number of staff employed and in the complexity of education on offer. In 2009 Concord celebrated its Diamond Jubilee and was honoured to be visited by HRH The Princess Royal. Her visit, the first ever royal visit for Concord and the first member of the royal family to visit Acton Burnell since 1283, coincided with the college breaking into the top ten schools in the UK league tables.
Student numbers have now reached 600 with record numbers of boarding and day students sharing Concord’s beautiful facilities. Results have also reached record levels with all of Concord’s top GCSE, AS level, A level and top university entry success occurring in the last three years. At the same time, Concord has opened new classrooms, boarding houses, a new library and greatly extended the dining room. In 2015, Concord announced its most ambitious programme of development to date, with the extension of the campus to the north by 32 acres, the building of a new boarding residence for lower school girls and the commissioning of a £12 million science block which was completed in January 2018. These developments have coincided with the launching of the Anthony Morris Foundation. This Foundation aims to raise funds to enable students to study at Concord who might – because of the cost – not otherwise be able to do so.
In 2019, Concord celebrated its 70th anniversary. This was marked by a number of events that culminated in a wonderful gathering at Concord College. Former students and their families from around the world and ranging from Concordians from the mid-1950s to very recent leavers came together for an evening of friendship and fun. The event was very special in so many ways, but was also a timely reminder of the stature and strength of the Concord community and of the Concord network.
In addition to the development of Concord College in Acton Burnell, Concord is actively seeking to develop further schools as opportunities allow. The first of these is the Shanghai Concord Bilingual School which opened in 2017 and further are planned in the years ahead. Related to this, Mr Neil Hawkins is to take up a new appointment as Global Principal of Concord College International in September 2021. He will be succeeded as Principal of Concord College by Dr Michael Truss.
So, it is clear to see that a great deal has changed and developed over the years here at Concord and this trend will continue. But at its heart lies great continuity: Concord has always been ambitious to provide a rigorous, creative and kind education for the student community we have the honour to serve.
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