At the British School, you don’t have to cross ‘the pond’ to be veddy international

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by Betsy Denson
betsy@theleadernews.com

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Secondary students in science class at the British School work intently on a lab project. (Photo by Betsy Denson)

The British School of Houston (BSH), located on 14 acres off of Watonga Boulevard, has been open since 2000. The school’s 750-member student body includes more than 40 nationalities, while British students make up about 47 percent. Many have parents who work in oil, gas or associated industries.

The school is led by Stephen Foxwell, who goes by the title “headteacher.” A Brit, who has also worked in the Middle East, Nigeria and the Cayman Islands among other locales, Foxwell happens to be an American football fan.

He says he used to stay up late in the UK to watch the games and loves Joe Montana and Brett Favre, but is now a Texans season ticket holder. Not solely an administrator, Foxwell sometimes does double duty as a substitute teacher for different age groups.

“Going into classrooms, that’s what I like doing,” he said.

Although BSH began as an elementary school, it is currently a “through school” serving children ages 3-18. Enrollment continues to rise – it was 500 just last year – and in March, the school will undertake a 5-year, $9 million building project.

The first stage, scheduled to be completed by January 2014, will focus on exterior improvements as well as a new science block. The second $4.5 million will be allocated to music, art and the performing arts wings.
No additional fundraising for the improvements is necessary. Tuition, which ranges from $20,000 to $23,000, is the parents’ financial obligation. The World Class Learning (WCL) schools network, of which BSH is a part, is funding the enhancements.

Teachers must have UK certification to work at the school. Finding them is not a problem according to Foxwell. He says that after he put an advertisement in a trade publication, he got 500 applications from UK teachers for only a few spots at BSH.

Although the teachers are not from the U.S., two key members of the staff are: Tami Riggs, Head of Admissions and Business Manager Gina Ford. Foxwell says the American perspective is the “best of both worlds.”

British School students at work in the Learning Resource Center. (Photo by Betsy Denson)

British School students at work in the Learning Resource Center. (Photo by Betsy Denson)

There are several different curriculums offered at BSH. The International Primary Curriculum, or IPC, is for ages 3-11 and takes a thematic approach. For instance, students might explore the theme Mission to Mars by writing about life on Mars, learning about velocity and studying zero gravity.

The English National Curriculum is for ages 12-16, which is the start of secondary school for BSH students. As the name suggests, it is based upon the UK model and encompasses 13 different subjects, many of which are covered concurrently.

Students in years 12 and 13 – which are the 17 and 18 year olds – follow the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme (IBDP). BSH became an IB school six years ago and periodically undergoes a re-accreditation process.

The British School also offers the IB’s alternative to the IBDP, the International Baccalaureate Career Related Certificate, IBCC, which has a vocational component and provides another route to university.
The 7-8 percent of Dutch students at BSH are able to take advantage of the fact that the school is accredited to teach the Dutch curriculum, which is necessary if they want to re-enter school in Holland.

Foxwell is very proud of the school’s academic results. For three years running, 100 percent of BSH students have passed the IB examinations with an average score of 34 points. The IB World Average is just under 30.
He also likes the diversity of BSH. There are nine WCL schools and six in North America. Foxwell notes that while WCL schools in Chicago and Charlotte are largely American, Houston, like Washington, is truly international.

The Houston school, however, has a feel all its own. “The parents of students in Washington work in embassies and other governmental agencies,” Foxwell said. “We get the scientists and engineers.”

For more information, visit http://www.britishschoolofhouston.org.

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