Wycombe Abbey, the world-class boarding school, and a leading education company in China, BE Education, have announced the creation of Wycombe Abbey International Schools (WAIS) in China, providing for the first time a blending of the China and UK national curricula in a true UK independent boarding school environment. This represents a major shift from previous entrants as it focuses on the huge potential of the local market with its distinctive curriculum which WAIS believes will have unique appeal in China and encourage even greater opportunities for the UK-China relationship in the future.
Commenting on the initiative, The Rt Hon Sajid Javid MP, Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills said “Education is one of the cornerstones upon which we build international relations. Global partnerships like this one by Wycombe Abbey and BE Education will help to weave a tighter union between Chinese and British students and the business leaders of the future.”
The initiative has been led by Headmistress Rhiannon Wilkinson, with the full support of the Governing Council and its Chairman Patrick Sherrington, and by BE Education’s Chief Executive, William Vanbergen. They jointly describe the outcome of the deal as “sharing the Wycombe DNA, its values and culture” with a number of schools in China and supporting Wycombe Abbey’s bursaries and development of other educational ventures. The plan is to start by rebranding BE Education’s successful Oxford International College of Changzhou (near Shanghai) as Wycombe Abbey International School from September 2016.
“We are understandably proud of our history, our values and our belief in the power of boarding schools in education. We took our time choosing an international venture that would accurately reflect the modern, outward-looking Wycombe. BE Education’s leading position and expertise in China gave us the right level of confidence,” says Rhiannon Wilkinson who has 11 years’ experience in international education in Hong Kong and Brunei.
“Wycombe Abbey’s reputation is phenomenally strong in China.” says William Vanbergen. “We know we have found the perfect partner to combine the best features of the Chinese and British education systems to ensure they appeal to this huge market.”
In addition to having two members of the Governing Council on the new five-strong WAIS Advisory Board, Wycombe Abbey will now start recruiting for an International Director who will be based in High Wycombe to run the initiative on its behalf and intend to have an appointment made this spring. Training and visits will happen through the year and Wycombe staff will conduct inspections of the schools in China. Wilkinson adds “I am privileged to lead an extremely modern, outward looking school where we help pupils achieve global capability, fit for tomorrow’s world. We already offer Mandarin up to A level and I can envisage opportunities for our staff and pupils – regular communications, exchanges, learning from each other’s teaching and learning methods and subjects.”
Explaining the advantage of rebranding their existing school, Vanbergen explains “Setting up an operation can take years, we have the advantage of experience and a school that is already up and running. We understand what local Chinese parents want – the best of both worlds – but fundamentally that their children remain Chinese. We offer a combination of teaching styles that produce academic results but also, with the British IGCSE courses and A-Levels, allow outstanding students in China to experience the British curriculum, learning style, and environment before they go abroad for university.”