St Bees School announces their ‘global vision’ for the future

Mark George opening the St Bees School Presentation (Photo: D K Powell)

By Ken Powell

The Board of Governors at St Bees School today revealed the details of their ‘global vision’ for the school just a few weeks after announcing plans to reopen in September 2018.

The presentation was given to a select audience, which included local politicians and other dignitaries, before the Board opened up the school to the general public in the afternoon. The vision, in a nutshell, was presented as ‘a high quality global school brand preparing local students for the international world’ and the opportunity to partner with an international education company arose in the first place thanks to the intervention of a former pupil at the school.

Chairman, Mark George, opened the presentation this morning telling the story of how St Bees School came to partner with the Chinese Education company ‘Full Circle’ saying it was like “a courtship, a marriage and then a first child.” Mr George explained that after finding the visions of both sides ‘closely aligned’ they entered into a ‘mutually exclusive courtship’ while negotiations continued and ‘married’ five weeks ago when they signed an agreement. The ‘first child’, Mr George was clearly excited to reveal, was that the board had appointed the new headmaster for the school yesterday.

Mr George handed over to Full Circle managing director, Danny Wang, who presented the core values and history of the company involvement in global education. Mr Wang told the audience that this venture with St Bees School was “unique to my family and Full Circle.” Later, Mr Wang spoke to E2D and said more about his motivation for getting involved in the school which closed in 2015. “My mother can’t read or write,” he explained adding that though his parents built up a large business from scratch, they did not receive a proper education in China but made sure their children did. Mr Wang, while he was at university at Cambridge, could see how gaps in the Chinese education system as well those in the British system could be closed by merging the best of both. “This is an opportunity to improve worldwide education,” he told E2D. The company first invested in a school in China 20 years ago (one of the first to do so in the country) and have continued to partner with schools to improve educational opportunities for children around the world.

Director of Education for Full Circle, Roger Sinnett, presented to the audience more detail about how this ‘fusion’ would work. Students will come from both the UK and China working with dual curriculums which will, in time, allow students to spend time in different schools if desired and still be able to drop back into their home education system after a period abroad. He saw St Bees school as “working to bring the community and school much closer together” explaining that he saw the school “giving to the community.” He stressed that the ethical underpinning of the school would be to achieve both academic attainment and character development in students for ‘success in life’ .

The story of how Full Circle and the Board of Governors came to be introduced seemed to touch the hearts of parents of former students at the school and other locals. Mark George told the audience that it was a former student, Laurence Gribble, who got in touch to ask for news about the school. He met Danny Wang while they were both studying at Cambridge University and then embarked on an impressive 9-month cycle ride for charity from London to Hong Kong. It was at the Chinese side that the two got together and discussions about St Bees began before Laurence Gribble got in touch with Mark George.

There was opportunity to ask questions after the presentation which the audience lost no time in using. One of the key concerns was that the current plans would be financially viable while not excluding local children from taking part. Mr George explained that bursaries and scholarships for UK children “have been costed in already” to make sure that the issues which led to the closure of the school two years ago would not happen again. Later, talking to E2D, he said that Full Circle (also known as Shenzhen International) was committed to supporting the school financially for many years to come. “We want this school here for another 432 years,” he said, referencing the long history of the school which was founded by Archbishop Grindal in 1583.

From L to R: Chairman of the Board of Governors, Mark George; Mayor of Copeland, Mike Starkie; and Managing Director of Full Circle, Danny Wang (Photo: D K Powell)