The summer has taken me so far to boarding schools in New England in the United States and now later in June – and a very hot June – to Wales. I was graciously welcomed by the Heads of two of the oldest Welsh boarding schools, as well as visiting the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama.
Also, in London I was able to have a good conversation with a leading college consultant, Dr. Jon Tabbert: http://dukesconsultancy.com/ As a transplanted American, Jon’s specialty is US college placement for British and international students. I got to know Jon when I was on my global recruitment trips for Berkshire School in Massachusetts. Through his work with students he has visited many UK boarding schools. It was terrific to reconnect, and to explore thoughts on schools and colleges.
Jon emphasized that the strengths of the British boarding schools lie “in their long-standing tradition, and the health of their endowments leading to stable faculty and resources to provide great opportunities for their students.” Building from Jon’s thoughts, it seems to me that families should research a boarding school - in any country - with an eye both to its history and its ability to innovate, to explore the existence of a loyal faculty balanced by the ability to hire the best young teachers, and the level of financial security to provide superior student resources.
In Wales I visited Llandovery College and Christ College. Both of these co-ed boarding schools are located in the beautiful rural heart of Wales, close to the M4 motorway, the main east-west link in the UK, and they provide supervised transport to and from Heathrow Airport about three and a half hours away. They are just over an hour also from the stunning west Wales coastline. The famous harbour in Tenby, just over an hour from these schools, is featured in the photographs here.
Llandovery College - www.llandoverycollege.com – opened in 1848, appropriately on the Welsh national day, St. David’s Day. I had a warm welcome from the Warden (or Headmaster) Guy Ayling, and Heather Ayling who supervises International Admissions. They are a great team having re-established Llandovery as a leading boarding option, after a period of instability. It has boarding opportunities from the ages of 7 to 18, and is solidly on the right track again. Their goal is to develop Pride, Passion and Performance. These values were in evidence on my visit to this lovely school.
From Llandovery, a short 37 minutes drive away, I had a stimulating visit with the new Head of Christ College in Brecon, Gareth Pearson, who has a number of initiatives in progress. Christ College was founded by Royal Charter in 1541: http://www.christcollegebrecon.com
In that year, after the Dissolution of the Monasteries, King Henry V111 gave thirty shillings (!) to the Church in Brecon to establish a boarding school on the site of the former Dominican Priory.
"The key to Christ College Brecon's success is the friendliness and warmth that pervades relationships here."
The Good Schools Guide
Both of these fine schools are open to international student applicants and have excellent second language programs, alongside top academic standards and superior sports programs, and their graduates attend leading UK universities.
In Cardiff, the capital of Wales, I visited briefly at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama https://www.rwcmd.ac.uk/. It is uniquely situated in the heart of Cardiff Castle. It was only established in 1949, but it has swiftly established the reputation of being one of the great performing arts conservatories in the UK. Having Sir Anthony Hopkins as a graduate, and now a Vice-President, solidifies its reputation!
For me, as a proud Welsh – Canadian, I was delighted to visit these fine Welsh schools and see them in action. I returned on Canada Day. My next blog will include thoughts after visits planned in July to four boarding schools in British Columbia.