A school for the 21st century: Lycée International de Londres Winston Churchill

When it comes to education in the UK, many parents take tradition and longevity as a sign of success. But the thriving Lycée International de Londres Winston Churchill is proving the exception to the rule.

In this latest webinar, part of Relocate Global’s Spring Great International Education and Schools Fair, Mireille Rabaté Head of School and Maaike Kaandorp, IB Coordinator and humanities teacher, both of the Lycée International de Londres Winston Churchill, talk to Relocate Global’s Managing Editor, Fiona Murchie about “Towards International Diplomas and Bilingualism: The paths we choose”.        The bilingual French/English Lycée International de Londres (LIL) Winston Churchill, which offers French Baccalauréat and International Baccalaureat Diploma pathways, was established in 2015 with the mission of creating a school for the 21st century: a school that offers a gateway to study, live and feel actively involved in any country in the world. Housed in an local Art Deco landmark – a former Town Hall and communications centre for Winston Churchill’s government in the Second World War – just a stone’s throw from the world-renowned London Wembley Stadium, the Lycée International de Londres Winston Churchill blends elements of Britain’s international past with a platform for a global future. 

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Finding your place in the world

Now, six years on from its establishment, and with an 800-strong student body ranging from age 3 to 18, the Lycée International de Londres Winston Churchill is going from one ground-breaking success to another thanks to the agility and engagement of its teaching staff, students and parents. “There is a place for everyone in our school,” says Mireille Rabaté, Head of School at the Lycée International de Londres Winston Churchill, explaining what makes the school so special.“We focus on the international perspective in education. Our goal is bilingualism and excellence through care. We set out to achieve excellent results, but also want our students to be caring individuals.  People who care about themselves and their individual health, but also who are active in the community.” This thinking informs the school’s approach to supporting students and their families on their own individual education journeys; both for globally mobile families and developmentally for each individual.“We make 3,000 decisions a day,” says Mireille Rabaté, explaining the rationale behind the dynamic dual-curriculum bilingual approach. “Making a decision about our children’s school and the path we want to put them and then let them travel is really important. We believe our role is to give as many choices as possible to students and their families.“Children discover early that people who speak different languages also think in different ways. They have a different view of the world. It opens people’s minds. Caring and making sure our students develop emotionally alongside their intellectual development is really important.”

A journey of a lifetime

“Choosing that path is about offering children the opportunity to develop and be themselves, as opposed to be someone else’s definition of success,” continues Mireille Rabaté. “Success is determined one student at a time. One family at a time.”Bilingualism and flexible, student-centred pathways are at the heart of the Lycée International de Londres Winston Churchill. From ages 3-11, all students are on the school’s bilingual programme and taught by two native-speaking teachers in the classroom. Bilingualism continues to inform each stage of the education on offer here, leading to a choice at secondary level where a students can, in consultation with their parents and the dedicated careers counselling team, make a choice of two parallel, flexible and intersecting paths.
  • Age 3-5: early years dual language immersion programme. Two teachers in the classroom
  • Age 5-10: bilingual primary curriculum – two teachers sharing a classroom
  • Age 10-16: Two tracks: Bac Francais Bilingue or English International Programme
  • Age 16-18: Bac Francaise/Option internationale or IB DP
Finding your path“On both of our tracks [French Baccalauréat and the International Baccalaureate Diploma] students have quite a bit of choice in choosing for their career path,” says Maaike Kaandorp, IB Coordinator and humanities teacher. “The choice of course is not something we decide. It’s very much a conversation for the students, the families and the teachers.“It’s a long path where usually we have a conversation where we might talk about where a student sees themselves after secondary education and what country they want to study in and what they want to study. What style and approach is good for them? “Is the student more comfortable with a classroom that really focuses on a national curriculum as well as on entering French universities, or more comfortable in an IB classroom that is more inquiry and concept based?” Maaike Kaandorp continues. “We have a long conversation where we ask and look at the student and find out what are they comfortable with in secondary education and what ideas do they have for their tertiary education and future career.”Students from the Lycée International de Londres Winston Churchill achieve offers from some of the most well-regarded universities around the world, including in France, the UK, Canada, the US and Hong Kong. Throughout the decision-making process and in the run up to university admissions, the school’s career service supports and motivates students to achieve their ultimate career goals with impartial and bespoke advice. “Our two programmes open all international doors,” says Mireille Rabaté. “It is not a matter of which is best, but which is best for your children. This is not necessarily the same for every child in the family.“It’s one ethos – two programmes, and more a question of fit and where a student is going to feel most comfortable or challenged and reassured at the same time.”

Benefits of bilingualism as a school

The open-minded and cognitive flexibility that a bilingual education offers not only helps the Lycée International de Londres Winston Churchill deliver an outstanding global education for every one of its students. It also underpins the agility, confidence and compassion with which the school and its community responds to very 21st century problems. Indeed, it was this forward-thinking approach and preparedness to both a growing trend – technology in education – and a fast-changing situation – national rail strikes – that has seen the school’s approach really shine during the past year during the Covid-19 pandemic.“I am passionate about great education and like cooking sometimes, you need the right tools,” explains Mireille Rabaté. “We have had ipads and ibooks from the beginning in 2015 and run lots of technology workshops every year in order to offer our teachers a great environment. The skill is not the technology itself, which will change, but how to use that knowledge you have to navigate around future technology.On the shift to remote learning last year, Mireille Rabaté says,  “We want students and teachers to be excited about what they are learning. Being very agile and a young school we can try things at a time when others didn’t. So, where we had the first train strike, we asked how can we do school remotely? It worked really well because everyone felt they could try and excel. “After that we scaled it up to one week per year at a time when older students were doing exams. Then suddenly Covid happened and we were ready because we had been preparing for the challenges of the 21st century and we were already teaching remotely.”

A school for the 21st century

The tech and online school journey for the Lycée International de Londres Winston Churchill does not stop there. To cater to the needs of globally mobile parents looking for more choice and flexibility in bilingual international education, the school has set up a ground-breaking remote-learning offering, LIL Online.“This stems from the success we’ve had in teaching remotely,” explains Mireille Rabaté. “When we realised we had to literally move overnight to online learning in the first lockdown, the next morning everyone was in their virtual classrooms. No one lost an hour of school. After a while we thought this was going well and we were able to maintain a sense of community. The students decided by themselves to organise at the end of the day something for them – something like a quiz night or 600 students watching Netflix together.”
Winston-Churchill-in-text-banner-replay
Now, recognising there might be some students learning remotely around the world and feeling isolated, the school has launched LIL Online.  “This is a way for anybody – secondary students wanting to do IB or the French Bacc – to join us from anywhere in the world,” says Mireille Rabaté. “We are working on it very carefully.“It could be for students whose parents are in Aberdeen or Cornwall and they would not be able to move to London as much as it could be for people in remote countries where there is no international school around you. Or for people who because of Covid may feel a bit uncomfortable about moving back into the physical world, who cannot or does not wish to.  We think there is a new need for this approach and anyone is more than welcome to join us online.”This innovation joins another where the school has been able to move fast to meet the needs of today’s globally mobile families or those seeking a bilingual education unavailable elsewhere. An alternative to boarding at this day school, the Happy Campers programme is designed to accelerate students’ language and cultural experience.Students aged 16 or over with a right to reside in the UK can stay with host British families vetted by the British Council. For those with parents based in the UK, their children can join this scheme from Year 11. “I believe it’s better than boarding school because provides that true British experience with a family,” says Mireille Rabaté.

One community

While the school is bilingual and offers a twin-track curriculum, the ethos is very much one school, role modelled by the teachers in this vibrant community. “Everyone in our school pretty much speaks two languages,” says Mireille Rabaté. “They all have lived and worked in a variety of countries and they bring to the school this wealth of experience and diversity in terms of background and culture.“We welcome multinational, bilingual and non-bilingual families from all over the world. Children don’t have to speak either language when they join our school. We find a way to teach kids who speak neither English nor French when they come to our school both. This is our job.”The goal of developing and supporting young global citizens who are defining their own paths is clearly being achieved when you look at the school’s co-curricular successes alongside its 100% success in exams and other results. Students at the school have set up a charity club and are reaching out to local community groups. Taking the initiative in these ways shows what is possible for students.“There is a very positive relationship between students and teachers who are incredibly committed and passionate to students’ paths,” Maaike Kaandorp. “Students are also really dedicated and compassionate. Being a new school there are a lot of possibilities and the attitude is always let’s give it a go. That’s incredibly inspiring because we get to experiment in education and that’s a unique situation.”

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