Wycombe Abbey in the UK and Oaks Christian School have reached across the pond to form an international partnership to support and encourage educational collaboration and best practices modeling.
Oaks Christian was privileged to host a team from Wycombe Abbey, a renowned independent all-girls boarding school, on the Westlake campus in late October during a weeklong visit that included classroom observations, student interactions in class and over lunch, and attendance at OCS events such as a football game, chapels and even the all-school disaster drill.
With Associate Head of School for Academics Dr. Matt Northrop, and Academic Dean Christi Grindstaff facilitating, Wycombe Abbey English Department Head Sam Lenton and Mathematics Faculty and Housemistress Avani Hurribunce got an up close and personal look at Oaks Christian in the areas of arts, and academics-specifically theatre, choral, mathematics, history, STEM, the institutes of engineering, global leadership and arts and innovation.
“I noticed immediately the camaraderie and community built between the staff body and that is brought into the classroom. I looked at where this was all coming from,” said Avani. “You are looking at the future- ready pupil, taking their skill set to survive in a global universe. At the same time having the vetted core values underpinning the Christian ethos here. You have a clear end point as to what you want for your pupils. There is a growth mind set here as opposed to a fix mindset.”
The partnership is a result of discussions in Wycombe Abbey’s staff development committee. One committee member, David Vaccaro, was interviewed by Forbes Magazine. While he was meeting with Forbes, Wycombe Abbey was also looking to expand exchanges with schools in the UK and overseas. Vaccaro became aware of the story Forbes had done about the OCS institutes of engineering, global leadership and arts and innovation and he was intrigued. He connected with Northrop who visited Wycombe Abbey and the collaboration's genesis was formed.
Northrop’s hopes for the partnership to mutually strengthen and benefit both schools.
“We believe that schools should always be growing and learning in a way that benefits the mission and the community. This isn’t an “individual sport.” Schools shouldn’t be silos. Our hope with this new partnership with Wycombe Abbey is to learn from one another,” he said. “For them to learn and grow as they see our strengths and for us to grow and learn from their strengths. We both have distinct strengths that we believe will make both schools stronger to the benefit of our students and staff.”
The Wycombe Abbey team spent time with the institute heads to understand how they partner with industry experts, conduct master classes, and develop opportunities and curriculum for students.
“The institutes were one of the interesting flagship elements. That was a concept unfamiliar to us. We wanted to know fundamentally how that worked. This also tied into some of our own strategic development as our school looks to building an innovation and design center,” Lenton shared.
After spending a week in the OCS community some of the key takeaway words were inspiration and future focused.
“It has been inspiring to see how Oak Christian operates. It has been a time of great encouragement about what is being done and for us to consider ways in which we can make education adaptable for the future world we are going into,” Lenton shared. “It is amazing to see a place that is using that as a driving force in its educational development. That leads to reflection: what principles can we take from that into the English school system?”
This initial visit is the beginning: Oak Christian hopes to send a team to Wycombe in the spring for interaction and observation, gaining a broader global perspective from an international school and digging deep into their pedagogy and educational rigor.