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'We let pupils lead' - Inside €24k-a-year school aimed at elite kids

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Nord Anglia International School, Leopardstown. Photo: Kyran O'Brien

Nord Anglia International School, Leopardstown. Photo: Kyran O'Brien

Nord Anglia International School, Leopardstown. Photo: Kyran O'Brien

Ireland's most expensive school has opened its doors, vowing to "shake up" the country's educational offering.

The Nord Anglia Inter- national School in Leopardstown, which opened earlier this month, charges up to €24,000 a year for day pupils.

It has an open enrolment and is aimed at the children of mobile international executives, but it also hopes to attract Irish families seeking a "premium education".

The "world-class" school off-ers the International Bacca- laureate programme, which allows "flexible learning" of core subjects as well as extra-curricular activities.

Ratio

Nord Anglia, which was previously Microsoft's old headquarters, is decked out with state-of-the-art classrooms as well as recording studios, a dance hall, theatre, library, music pods and high-end metal and woodwork suites.

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The junior play area at the newly-opened Nord Anglia International School in Leopardstown. Photo: Kyran O'Brien

The junior play area at the newly-opened Nord Anglia International School in Leopardstown. Photo: Kyran O'Brien

The junior play area at the newly-opened Nord Anglia International School in Leopardstown. Photo: Kyran O'Brien

The school, which opened three weeks ago, has 30 part-time and full-time teachers and aims to keep the student-teacher ratio below nine to one.

While Nord Anglia declined to comment on the number of students enrolled, the secondary year groups have up to 15 children and there are up to six children in the early years programme for ages three to five.

Head of primary and the early years programme Lisa Cannell said Nord Anglia was determined to shake up Ireland's educational offering.

"Our world is changing and it's changing very quickly," she said.

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The Dance Studio in The Nord Anglia International School, Leopardstown. Photo: Kyran O'Brien

The Dance Studio in The Nord Anglia International School, Leopardstown. Photo: Kyran O'Brien

The Dance Studio in The Nord Anglia International School, Leopardstown. Photo: Kyran O'Brien

"We need to prepare our students, and I don't think state schools are currently doing that.

"We want to make sure learning is engaging and relevant. We want to teach our students life skills that they can actually apply."

The primary school students study the core subjects of English, maths, arts, languages (French, Irish, Spanish, Mandarin), PE, geography, history, culture studies, science and IT.

As the school's motto is "Come to the edge", Ms Cannell said students were also taught skills such as critical and independent thinking.

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The Computer Room in the Nord Anglia International School, Leopardstown. Photo: Kyran O'Brien

The Computer Room in the Nord Anglia International School, Leopardstown. Photo: Kyran O'Brien

The Computer Room in the Nord Anglia International School, Leopardstown. Photo: Kyran O'Brien

"The students are asked to look at someone who inspires them and then lead their own project in the school," she added.

"It's important that they have a voice and that we listen to them and their ideas. We hope they will inspire others with their leadership projects."

Ms Cannell, who is originally from Sheffield but has taught in international schools across the world, said the early years programme focused on young pupils' interests.

"It's very similar to Montessori-style teaching where we let the children lead," she added.

Rita Bateson, who is originally from Blanchardstown, is the head of secondary and mathematics and wrote five books on which the curriculum is based.

She said that while the stud-ents are expected to learn theorems, they are taught how they relate to a global context rather than just memorising them.

"Everything has to be relevant and life-worthy. There is nothing that kids won't use in the future, and if there is we have to justify it," Ms Bateson added. "We can't just keep cramming facts into stud- ents that they'll never learn again.

"We can all google facts now - students have to be able to understand them.

"We look at how statistics can be misleading in the press and fake news.

"We look at how results are analysed and how they can be skewed depending on how it is manipulated."

One thing that makes Nord Anglia different from state schools is its impressive performing arts programme, which includes a collaboration with the Juilliard School in New York.

Head of performing arts Hannah Picasso said Nord Anglia stressed the arts were for everyone, not only those who have had previous training.

Instruments

"All of our students have music, dance and drama as part of their curriculum," she said.

Ms Picasso, who is a conservatory-trained violinist, said pupils were given the opportunity to learn new instruments as well as music composition.

"Our programme is centred on actively making music," she added.

As well as a keyboard lab, the school has five music pods and a recording studio where students can take time to practise their instruments.

"Some students are in here at 7am to practise," Ms Picasso said.

"I always tell my students they can fill their days with as much music as they want."


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