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UWC Atlantic College top of the class

The college was praised for its 'sector-leading practice'

Posted by Hannah Vickers | February 18, 2017 | Teaching

UWC Atlantic College, which is credited with co-creating the international baccalaureate, has been praised for its “Excellent performance” by Estyn, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate for Education and Training in Wales. 

Following its first review by Estyn, UWC Atlantic College in South Wales has been applauded for its “sector-leading practice”, which is reflected in the “exceptional outcomes pupils achieve and their high levels of wellbeing”. 

The college was established at its St Donat’s Castle campus in the 1960s by renowned German educationalist, Kurt Hahn. His vision was to create a pre-university institution that would bring together young people from across the world to live together to be challenged both intellectually and physically as a means of creating understanding and peace.

Today, this founding principle is embodied in the mission of the United World Colleges movement which seeks “to make education a force to unite peoples, nations and cultures for peace and a sustainable future”. This mission forms the basis of the Atlantic Diploma, the bespoke experiential-learning curriculum that is taught to the college’s 350 students, who represent over 90 nationalities.    

In its report, Estyn, declared the Atlantic Diploma and Pre-Diploma, to be “highly-innovative”, commending their ability to “provide pupils with extensive opportunities to take part in a stimulating range of academic courses and experiential- learning activities”.

The structure of the Atlantic Diploma allows students to divide their time between their IB studies and a co-curriculum of wider activities on campus and in the community. Students participate and lead on an array of co-curricular learning activities, such as working with local refugee charities, building and testing rigid inflatable boats that can be used to help with the migrant crisis in the Mediterranean, or volunteering their time to local community groups and sustainable projects.

These co-curricular endeavours help to bring the academic studies to life and help to inspire students to become change-makers in their communities as they move on and develop their careers.

Estyn stated that that it had found the college’s approach to developing collaborative partnerships with stakeholders to be “exceptional”, recognising them as an “integral feature in addressing the college’s mission and aims” by extending learning opportunities and experiences.

In particular, the report recognised the UWC Atlantic College’s “exceptional conference programme, addressing issues such as social justice, sustainability and peace, helps pupils to acquire great awareness of major social and global issues”.  

The inspectors highlighted that this approach has also been incorporated into the college’s Pre-Diploma curriculum, noting its global perspectives course’s effectiveness in aiding pupils “understanding of a broad range of topical, cultural, political, environmental and ethical issues”.   

Commenting on Estyn’s glowing report, UWC Atlantic College’s Principal, John Walmsley, said: “Since its founding in 1962, UWC Atlantic College has always sought to provide our students with an exceptionally unique and rewarding educational experience. Our curriculum, mission and the ethos we all strive to live by here are by design very different to other colleges and sixth form schools. We are grateful to Estyn for taking the time to obtain a true understanding of our college.

Our first Estyn report reinforces the impressive foundations of high-quality teaching and uncompromising student welfare on which UWC Atlantic College is built, and the positive experiential learning environment that exists here as a result - John Walmsley, UWC Atlantic College’s Principal

“Our first Estyn report reinforces the impressive foundations of high-quality teaching and uncompromising student welfare on which UWC Atlantic College is built, and the positive experiential learning environment that exists here as a result.

“While I am undeniably proud to see that Estyn recognises that our IB scores are well above the international average, I am most pleased to see that the inspectorate recognises and applauds our UWC mission, which underpins the ethos of all that we do here.” 

More than half of those attending UWC Atlantic College receive some form of financial support. Many of those students have travelled to the UK from areas of extreme conflict, including Syria and South Sudan. This was recognised by the inspectorate, who also highlighted that “The quality of care, support and guidance is highly effective and has a significant impact on pupils’ learning outcomes and wellbeing”. The college holds its diversity to be fundamental to facilitating better understanding and collaboration between those from different and sometimes conflicting backgrounds and nations.

In their findings, Estyn’s inspectors also said that “the exceptional international family ethos is particularly successful in encouraging pupils to reflect on their role in society and how their actions can affect and transform the lives of others”.

This commitment is replicated throughout the international movement by the 17 UWC colleges across the globe, which have been created since UWC Atlantic College’s founding of the movement. Estyn has now requested that the college prepare a series of written case studies on the elements of best practice it has identified so other colleges across Wales can follow UWC Atlantic College’s example.

Gerry Holden, Caretaker Principal and inspector commented, “This report is a wonderful testament to the work carried over the last five years under John Walmsley’s leadership. All members of Team Atlantic College, the board of governors, the staff, teaching and support, parents, alumni, donors and students should be hugely proud of what has been achieved. As the college welcomes its new Principal in March 2017, the college is in very good shape and will surely go from strength to strength”.

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