Sotogrande International School (SIS) is based in Cádiz, an ancient port city in south-west Spain But SIS is anything but ancient – indeed, its diverse and creative ethos makes it an inspiring, forward-looking environment for children from all over the world to find their path. We spoke to James Kearney, headmaster of SIS, about what the school provides for its students and what’s next in its journey.
What is the school’s ethos?
We believe in the infinite capacity of all our children to discover what they are good at and love doing. Our purpose, therefore is to help them discover and develop these gifts and talents as confident learners in a way that allows them to be happy and fulfilled, while helping others do the same. We also believe we have a unique approach to learning which open minds, creates magic and uses education as a force for good to help change the world. So we are not just interested in the great exam results we achieve – we also wish to develop the whole person, to give them a platform to find their own special talent and share this with the world.
Where do your students come from?
We have students from over 45 different nationalities in our school body. We are, therefore, truly international. Thirty-five percent of our students are English, 35% Spanish, nine percent are Russian and 21% have other nationalities.
Universities like the well-rounded open minded and interdependent students that programmes like the IB Diploma produce
What do they go on to do?
Last year, 98% of our students decided to go to university and each one of these students managed to get into the university of their choice. The majority of our students attend universities in the UK and last year we had students attend Exeter, Sussex, Birmingham, Imperial College London, and Lancaster. However, we also have students who attend top universities in the USA, Australia, Canada, Holland and Singapore, just to name a few counties. We have a very big focus on sports and some of our students managed to obtain scholarships to American Universities for golf, tennis and polo.
Why are international qualifications so important in today’s workforce?
International qualifications provide an externally validated stamp of great academic preparation for the students in our care. Universities like the well-rounded open minded and interdependent students that programmes like the IB Diploma produce. Businesses want students that are able to face the world without being phased and to begin to apply themselves by being proactive, innovative and confident. The IB diploma also focuses on helping others which allows students to develop a moral purpose through the CAS programme. This is a core feature, which we take to new levels through providing opportunities for our students to have life changing experiences through service learning trips and take further action is essential to the growth and development of human kind and our planet.
What are your future plans for the school?
Our aim for this year is to continue to support the growth of our students and enhance our facilities. We are in negotiation to purchase some land adjacent to our current campus, which will allow us to extend the resources and facilities to take the education of our students to a new level. In September we will begin our new Flexible Learning Pathways programme for elite sports students aged 16 and over. This new programme aims to allow our students to excel in a sport of their choice in the morning and attend school from 2pm to 7pm. We will be offering two different programmes, one an International A-level qualification and a High School Diploma option, centering on our IB Diploma courses. We also have a big drive to build up the numbers in our boarding house, which is a state-of-the-art facility with en-suite rooms and a swimming pool.
In the primary school, we are developing our iPad programme and finding innovative ways to work with Apple to enhance the education of students in secondary through our Macbook Air programme.
We have won the opportunity to present at the International Baccalaureate conference later this year and are feeling really excited about this opportunity to tell the world about the great work we are doing within our school. We are trying to find innovative ways to link our students learning together.
We have also launched a strategy called Connected Learning. Connected learning helps our students develop awareness of themselves, awareness of others and awareness their role in the world. Connected learning is created from five key pillars: developing effective people, effective learners, empathetic global citizens, having choice in what and how they study and being supported to make good choices in their learning through the use of IT.