History of Concord College

Under the leadership of a succession of educational visionaries, multi award-winning Concord College has grown to become one of Britain’s most internationally renowned schools.


As Concord reaches its 75th anniversary, children from over 125 countries, including the UK, have been educated to the highest standards, decided their futures and even met their future spouses here.

Concord College in Tunbridge Wells

Concord’s Founding Principles

The word Concord means ‘harmony’ and since Paul Oertel and Monica Carr-Taylor founded the College in 1949 as a language school in Hastings with just 12 students, it has had at its heart the spirit of using personal warmth to break down barriers and misunderstandings between nationalities.  

The College grew quickly in the 1950s and soon moved to Tunbridge Wells in Kent where it added A Levels to its syllabus. Here students from Sweden, Finland, Thailand, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, Turkey, Greece, Pakistan, India, Switzerland, Venezuela and many more countries studied together. 

The influence of Frank Bell OBE

In 1969 Mr Frank Bell owner of the Bell School of Languages, bought Concord and Paul Oertel and Monica Carr-Taylor retired as joint Principals. 

Whilst a prisoner of war 25 years earlier, Frank had risked punishment by setting up a secret ‘university’ to encourage his fellow prisoners to keep their minds active. This experience was a great influence on his life when he returned home. 

“I am convinced more than ever that…the greatest hope for the future of mankind (lies) in the friendly co-operation that is found in study and in learning…enmity and jealousy cannot flourish when the welfare of common humanity is in view.”

—Frank Bell, Undercover University by Elisabeth Bell (1991)

Frank Bell Concord College

Frank Bell OBE

Frank Bell appointed Mr Martin Horwood as the new Principal and under their joint leadership the College continued to grow. In addition to A Levels, Concord now offered a successful Summer School and student numbers continued to rise.

The move to Acton Burnell

By 1973 Concord had outgrown the facilities in Tunbridge Wells so Frank Bell moved Concord College to its present site in Acton Burnell near Shrewsbury, a morning’s drive from London. This attractive rural campus boasted not only the ruins of a fortified manor house but also the so-called ‘Parliament Barn’, reputed to be the site of the first English Parliament. At its heart was a mansion house that had previously been home to the Our Lady of Sion Convent School. With classrooms and bedroom facilities already in place and large grounds, it provided the perfect location for the College to expand.

At that time Concord had 11 teachers and 130 students – many of them had completed military service before coming to Concord and were therefore slightly older than today’s cohort. There were many students from Nigeria, Iran, Jordan, the Gulf States, Hong Kong, Thailand and an intake from Malaysia in January. British students were still rare at this point.

“Wow, so many foreigners from so many countries, like a gathering of the UN.”

—Former Concord student Alex Wong Kum Cheong, from Malaysia, remembers arriving at Concord in 1973

Tony Morris’s leadership

Two years after the College arrived in Acton Burnell Anthony (Tony) Morris became Concord’s Principal.  Mr Morris’ personal warmth, flair for marketing and vision for the College, as well as great deal of hard work, meant student numbers more than doubled over the next decade. With only a limited budget, the College embarked on an ambitious building programme and girls were admitted for the first time in 1977. Initially they were housed on a separate site at nearby Attingham Park, with Gill Hood later becoming Attingham’s Principal.

Anthony Morris John Leighton and Tony Foster discussing plans for new art building Concord College

The College becomes a Trust

In 1983 Frank Bell decided to retire. He was keen to keep Tony Morris at the helm and set up the Bell Concord Educational Trust to secure its future. By now there were 200 students and academic standards were still not as rigorous as today, but Mr Morris had ambitious plans. In 1995 Concord launched its Lower School offering GCSEs, and more buildings were going up. Thanks to a substantial scholarship programme, academic standards started to rise and by 2002 Concord College was among the top fifty schools in the country for A Levels and amongst the UKs top International Summer Schools in El Gazette rankings. 

“The fact that so much has changed would not surprise Frank Bell. It still feels like a family-run school even though it is a charity. Frank trusted Tony Morris’ vision to expand the school and raise academic expectations and would still have been 100% behind us now”

—– Dr Iain Bride, Chair of Concord College Trustees

Neil Hawkins

After 30 years as Principal, Tony Morris decided to retire. Neil Hawkins was appointed in 2005 and under his stewardship the College continued to rise in academic rankings, student numbers and subjects offered. It also became a major local employer. By 2021 the College employed 350 members of staff including over 100 teachers as well as pastoral staff, maintenance and administrative support staff. This team of people, just as when the College was founded, ensures Concord continues to offer students the very best environment in which to learn.

Mr Hawkins oversaw Concord’s most ambitious building projects to date including the Jubilee Building opened by HRH The Princess Royal and the Hawkins Science Building in 2017.

In 2021 Neil Hawkins took on a new position as Principal of Concord College International to develop new Concord schools around the world.

Michael Truss

Dr Michael Truss took over the Concord College’s reigns as Principal in September 2021 and is enjoying continuing to build a bright future for the College and academic success for its many students. In October 2023 Concord won ‘Independent Schools of the Year’ award for ‘Best International Experience’, an award which demonstrates Concord’s continuing commitment to the vision of its founders.

“Over the last 75 years Concord College has been the home to so many people across the world who take away not only a great education, but also an understanding of different nationalities, memories of a beautiful place, an affection for the UK and a dedicated team of caring local people.”

—– Dr Michael Truss, Principal of Concord College

Concord’s Founders

Concord College first owners history

Monica Carr-Taylor & Mr Paul Oertel – Owners and Joint Principals (1949 to 1969) and Frank Bell (1969-1983)


Barbara Belfield Dean, Sue Roberts, Andrew Locket, JennyO’Shea and Attingham Principal, Gill Hood

Frank Bell

Tony Morris and Neil Hawkins

John Case

Tony Foster

John Leighton

Concord’s Buildings 

1963 Main House Tunbridge Wells - Umberto Braghieri Concord College

Main House in Tunbridge Wells until 1973

Concord moved to Acton Burnell Hall in 1973

Concord’s Girls went to nearby Attingham Park from 1977

Concord’s former ‘West End’, now the Jubilee Building

The building of Bell House accommodation block

1991 sports hall being built Concord College

The Sports Hall under construction

Concord College theatre being built

The Theatre being built


Computer science in Acton Burnell 1970s Concord College

Computer Science

Science Block 1980s Concord College alumni




Occasions, Events & Fun

Table Tennis

Road Race 1980s Concord College alumni history

Road Races

1980s concert Concord College

Concerts at Acton Burnell

Concerts at Attingham

International Exhibition Day 1980s Concord College

International Exhibitions

opening of Bell House - Frank Bell Concord College

The opening of Bell House

Princess Royal opens Jubilee Block Concord College

The Princess Royal opens Jubilee Block in 2017

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