Queen Ethelburga’s on inspiring ambition in their students
00:00 23 January 2017
Steven Jandrell, principal at Queen Ethelburga’s, discusses how to encourage a love of learning – and of life
Two tigers; rampant. It’s not necessarily what you expect when you visit the principal’s office, but then Queen Ethelburga’s is not a school that likes to stick to the unwritten rules of independent education.
‘You get used to them after a while,’ says Steven Jandrell, as he leads the way past the enormous and, frankly, terrifying brace of stuffed beasts. ‘Tea?’
He began working at the Thorpe Underwood co-ed college as head of music 25 years ago and took over as principal in 2006 with around 550 students in his care. He now has more than 1,500 under his tutelage, aged 3-19, with fractionally more boys than girls (even though a great many people still think it’s a girls’ school, which it hasn’t been for 20 years), 1,100 boarders and 400 or so day pupils and around 40 per cent international students from 66 countries.
Queen Ethelburga’s has grown exponentially since moving from Harrogate in 1992 to the Thorpe Underwood Estate but has managed to retain a caring, individualistic approach to student care by creating four schools, each with their own heads and staff, under a single collegiate banner. Chapter House Junior School caters for three-10 year olds, King’s Magna Middle School houses 10-14 years olds, while 14-19 years olds have a choice of Queen Ethelburga’s College, which follows a traditional GCSE and A level curriculum, and The Faculty of Queen Ethelburga’s, which offers academic, creative and vocational options.
‘Most independent schools are all about exam results, but we take a more imaginative, forward-thinking approach,’ says Mr Jandrell. ‘We give our students real choice, catering for their distinct needs and playing to their individual strengths and passions.
‘It’s about offering a breadth of choice and an individually-tailored education. And, whichever option our students take, they still have the opportunity to head to the best universities’.
The latest tranche of exam results certainly seems to back him up. Students at the college returned 87 per cent A level grades at A* or A (98 per cent at A* to B), while faculty pupils celebrated 84 per cent A level A* or A and 91 per cent BTEC distinction* and distinction grades.
‘When I took over as principal in 2006, I wanted to ensure that our motto – ‘to be the best that I can with the gifts that I have’ – was a reality for each and every student,’ says Mr Jandrell. ‘For me, that means seeking out your own inspiration, whatever that may be. I always advise students to find something they love, that they’re passionate about, and pursue it. They shouldn’t be ushered down a particular route because, perhaps, that’s what their parents did. The world has changed and is continuing to change, so their choices might be no longer viable. Instead, I tell our students to go their own way and find their own path.’
And there are many, many paths to follow at Queen Ethelburga’s, academically, socially, culturally and recreationally.
The school has invested somewhere in the region of £100m in the last ten years to provide the very best facilities for its students, including a new £7m refectory, a swimming pool, science labs, a £1m day centre, new changing rooms, classrooms and boarding upgrades, a £1m medical centre, a laser shooting gallery, a £1m teaching block, new common rooms and boarding apartments, a drama-dance-music centre, a 330-seat theatre and last, but certainly not least, a £30m sports village.
‘Parents around the world still, quite rightly, regard an English education as something very special,’ said Mr Jandrell. ‘Some of them are surprised, however, when we at QE encourage our students to take time off from their studies to play sport or join a club or just hang out with their friends. But that’s part of their education too. We want to produce well-rounded, socially adept, resilient young people at the end of the day. We want them to try something new, to be inspired and inspiring and to discover a deep love of learning.’
Students are also encouraged to discover their potential via community outreach and charity work, link-ups with outside agencies like NASA (some lucky pupils have actually met astronaut Tim Peake) and international trips that take them, among other worldwide destinations, to Thailand, Gambia and the UN in New York.
‘We are in a very privileged position and it’s vital we experience the way other people live,’ says Mr Jandrell. ‘It’s always interesting – and eye-opening – for students who travel to Gambia to work with children who have nothing – no iPads, laptops and games consoles – but are still happy. It’s a very important lesson.’
Life-enhancing experiences, top-of-the-range facilities and genuine academic choice are the main reasons students from around the world are attracted to Queen Ethelburga’s. But, interestingly, ‘brand Yorkshire’ also plays a part.
‘When you travel abroad you quickly become aware of just how strong brand Yorkshire is,’ says Mr Jandrell. ‘Virtually everyone has heard of us and, thanks in no small part to the Tour de Yorkshire, has seen the county on TV. Our stunning location and healthy environment here at QE coupled with our accessibility and proximity to all manner of attractions make us a very tempting choice indeed.’
To find out more about Queen Ethelburga’s, visit qe.org or call 01423 333330 for a prospectus.