Independent schools in B.C. offer some of the world’s finest in academic programming, but the globally influenced and personally empowering lessons these schools offer help young people move forward with the confidence and vision to change the world
Brentwood College School
Mill Bay on Vancouver Island is the perfect backdrop for Brentwood College School—a co-ed, grade 9-12 boarding school with an important difference: student choice.
“The choice to be here creates a supportive community of students from over 40 countries who gain the independence and skills to succeed in the post-secondary world,” says Liam Sullivan, deputy head – student life. Brentwood also stands out with its Tripartite program, which places academic classes in the mornings and athletics and arts on alternate afternoons. “This allows students to choose from the many extracurricular opportunities we offer,” Sullivan adds.
The school values—grit and joy—align well with the driving notion of “sticktuitiveness”, which says any task or problem demands resolve to push through. “Some of the critique we have heard about young people is that they struggle with the ability to persevere through setbacks and often struggle mentally with feelings of inadequacy,” says Sullivan. “We seek to build environments that allow for process over product while always supporting open and honest feedback.”
Brentwood’s global-minded, student-centered commitment to experiential learning is built on the notion that students should be learning in a variety of ways and environments. “Transformative learning is not bound to the classroom. It can take place at any time during the day at a school like Brentwood,” says Sullivan.
Its holistic and successful programming is celebrated for creating student opportunities in myriad ways, thanks in part to specialist academic teachers, high-level coaches and professional artists hired to help students discover more about their abilities and, ultimately, thrive.
A hands on approach at Southridge Academy.
“The more things change, the more they stay the same”—this is especially true at Southridge, a co-ed, K-12 independent day school located in South Surrey, B.C. Southridge is currently celebrating its 25th anniversary, marking a quarter-century-long tradition of developing students who make a difference in the world.
“Our motto is ‘Let every spirit soar,’ and our intent is to see the uniqueness in every child,” says Renée Lepp, director of enrolment. “We offer a supportive environment where students can discover, explore and share their interests and passions. We want each of our students to know themselves, so they can find their place in the world and lead lives of meaning, purpose and contribution.”
This philosophy is most evident in Southridge’s approach to admissions, which is centered on getting to know each child and family. The school is excited by students who have a broad range of interests and who are eager to learn about the world around them. “There is no ‘typical Southridge student’ because the world is not made up of kids who are the same,” says Lepp. “We hope to attract students from diverse backgrounds and upbringings—students who are curious, enthusiastic and authentic, and who appreciate that each one of us has something special to offer.”
The school provides $200,000 in financial assistance annually to new grade 8-12 students, to help make the school as accessible as possible to a wide range of families and students.
“Above all, we hope to develop students with strong minds and good hearts,” says Lepp. “If we achieve this, we’ve achieved a great deal.”
West Point Grey Academy student utilizes the science lab
West Point Grey Academy
West Point Grey Academy is a coeducational independent day school in Vancouver, with 943 students in junior kindergarten to grade 12. The school is committed to giving each student transformative learning experiences shaped by action and celebrated with joy. “We provide future-focused, experiential academic programs and cocurricular opportunities that empower students to take action in their local and global communities, to develop and pursue their interests and passions, and to prioritize their well-being and mental health,” says Stephen Anthony, head of school.
Enriched programs in environmental/outdoor education, entrepreneurship and STEM, among others, complement the school’s core value to be globally inspired, achieved with third language learning, cultural immersion trips, international service outreach, Model UN clubs and Indigenous education.
“Central to our educational philosophy is a growth mindset: when students learn to reflect on their learning and view change as opportunities for growth, they develop a deep curiosity for learning and resilience,” says Ciara Corcoran, head of junior school.
The school’s University and Career Counselling Centre facilitates a Work Experience Program and opportunities for students to connect with postsecondary institutions around the world. Graduates are enrolled in programs at leading universities in Canada, the U.S. and abroad.
At Stratford Hall, students develop the values and skills necessary to live a fulfilled and purposeful life, and they learn to become good people who make a difference in the world.
“These traits are encouraged from the classroom to canoe excursions, from international trips to on-stage and online experiences,” says Dean Croy, head of school. “We wish to provide our community of learners the experience of navigating the complexities of living in the 21st century.”
Founded in the 1990s by two Burnaby parents, Stratford Hall is one of only 12 in Canada to offer the International Baccalaureate Continuum Programme from grades K to 12.
Stratford Hall focuses on expanding students’ experiences through its Creativity, Activity and Service (CAS) program. “Examples of creativity include students painting and designing three school murals, activity ranges from tap dancing to taekwondo, and service involves supporting community partners,” says Croy.
A renowned Ultimate Frisbee program that brought the school to provincial victory in 2018 and an intercultural music program featuring Taiko drumming, African Marimba and martial arts-inspired performance on the Japanese Taiko drums are just a few examples of the types of programming that make Stratford Hall a unique and inspiring learning environment.
Welcoming students from pre-K to grade 12, Mulgrave School in West Vancouver is focused on the continuous pursuit of personal best and fulfilment of potential among its students. Its International Baccalaureate program means young people are prepared to become global citizens, culturally sensitive and comfortable in an international, multicultural world.
“We want to make sure they have the intercultural skills and qualities to be happy and successful wherever they find themselves,” says head of school John Wray. Young people learn a deep understanding of global issues, and all subjects are infused with an international focus.
In the spirit of educating the whole person, Mulgrave provides compulsory life-skills courses focusing on personal development. “It is important to know how to be secure emotionally and socially as we move into the future,” says Wray. “Everything else depends on the ability to develop sustainable positive relationships.”
The future has been the single-minded focus for Urban Academy leadership. “As a school committed to linking learning to real life through field study, STEM programs, technology integration, and a significant arts program, students learn about a wide range of subjects and immerse themselves into opportunities of the future,” says Cheryle Beaumont, head of school.
Located in New Westminster, Urban Academy recently opened its brand new, modern school building with amenities for JK to grade 12 students. The facility is built high rather than wide, ready to welcome students with everything from a media lab and theatre to a full-size gym, science lab and maker space.
“Academics are of paramount importance,” says Beaumont. “Closely connected to that is developing students who know how to be scholars, are connected to the community, and aware of their role in their own success.”