The English College in Prague is different

Interview with Mr. Simon Marshall, ECP Headmaster

The English College in Prague (ECP) was established in 1992 and first started teaching in 1994. The foundation resulted from a conversation between President Vaclav Havel and then British Ambassador. President Havel noted that there used to be an English grammar school in Prague which was highly regarded, both before 1939 and then again from 1945 until the early 50s. He hoped that it would be possible for this tradition to be revived. The English College therefore was set up to offer an education for Czech students and other Prague residents to provide a British-style, internationally-minded education, based around the International Baccalaureate Diploma qualification.

What are the key aims of the school?

Our aim was to create an intellectually-demanding education, based on the best contemporary teaching methods, to allow all our students the chance of applying to the best universities worldwide. We believe in the value of a broad education, grounded in outstanding pastoral care, one which focuses on developing each individual’s potential by offering sporting, cultural and charitable opportunities alongside rigorous intellectual challenge.

What do you consider unique about The English College in Prague?

We are unusual in that we offer financial assistance to enable students from backgrounds unable to afford our fees; this is a vital part of our mission and goes to the heart of the ideals of our founders. Our vision is to be the leading academic school of our kind in the Czech Republic.

How do you compare with other international schools?

We are a hybrid school: we are a six-year bilingual Gymnasium, in the Czech Register of Schools – all our students in years 1-4 follow an authorized Czech curriculum – but we act also like a selective British independent school (we are an HMC school) and we prepare all our students for British IGCSE examinations. In Years 5 and 6 students can opt to study either IB on its own, or can combine it with also studying for the Czech maturita examination (our students only have to take the Czech Language and Literature component, along with the IB Diploma, to gain maturita).

Like many international schools, we have students of many different nationalities, and our common language is English. We are rooted in Prague; all our students, regardless of their origin, are encouraged to study Czech and to understand Czech history, culture and literature. We want all our students to understand where they live and where they come from, to enable them better to understand where they might eventually wish to work and live.

What are your results like?

We are the most experienced IB school in the Czech Republic and we have the largest number of students taking the IB in the Czech Republic each year (we have 75 in our current Year 6, which is about usual). We have consistently had the best overall IB results in Prague and the Czech Republic. Unlike other schools, all our students enter for the full IB Diploma, and our average for the past ten years is 33 points per student. This statistic includes the few who sometimes don’t pass the Diploma, as we believe that all our students deserve recognition for their efforts in attempting the demanding Diploma.

What do you think is your main achievement?

I think our main achievement is in helping our students to achieve places at the most competitive universities worldwide – we gain a good number of places at Oxford and Cambridge each year, and around 50% of our leavers choose to study at UK universities, and the majority of these are Russell Group universities. We have started to look closely at American universities too, as they have some excellent scholarship schemes which we think could greatly benefit our students.

What do you offer offer apart from an excellent scholarly education?

We have a flourishing and dynamic Theatre Academy and Drama Society and our students have opportunities to take part in semi-professional drama with the Theatre Company Blood, Love and Rhetoric. We put on concerts of classical music, have open-mic nights as well as run science competitions, mathematics challenges as well as exchange trips and work-placement schemes in leading UK institutions. Nearly a quarter of our students take part in outdoor adventure expeditions (as part of the Duke of Edinburgh Award) and we also encourage all our students to take part in some form of charitable service each year. Many of our students are active in some of the leading Sports’ clubs in the Czech Republic and a good number compete at national and international level in sport, gymnastics or at dance. Most importantly we value each child we educate as an individual; our tutorial system aims to support all our students as they grow up and make the difficult transition from adolescence to adulthood. There is no ECP ‘type’ of student – and we are proud of the cultural, intellectual and social diversity of our student and staff body.

What do you think your students think of your school?

Our students tell us how they feel and what they value; they are also comfortable talking about what they would like us to improve and to change. We aim to develop positive and supportive relationships with our students, to create an environment of trust and respect whereby we can work together to make a school that is vibrant, happy, successful and flourishing. We like to listen to our students and adapt as well as sometimes stick to our beliefs and convictions. We aren’t trying to preserve an outdated idea of Englishness, but to provide a challenging, intellectual and enjoyable experience for all our students.

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