Brentwood CollegeOptions abound these days when it comes to educating your children. Parents in B.C. can choose from a growing number of independent schools—each of which offers a unique approach to learning in the 21st century
Brentwood College School
At Brentwood College School, situated on Vancouver Island’s Mill Bay, lessons go far beyond academics. Students are taught the importance of independence while immersed in an educational environment where there is little room for anything but personal authenticity.
“Because it’s a boarding school, we know each other really well,” says Bud Patel, Brentwood’s Head of School.
“We want you to be your authentic self and it’s OK to be your authentic self.”
The co-ed school, which offers grades 9 through 12, includes students from 40 countries and 60 nationalities.
And while the school is well known for its Olympian-producing rowing program, Brentwood prides itself on teaching young people to be “well-rounded and well-grounded.”
The oceanfront campus boasts a new 65,000-sq.-ft. athletic centre, a dance studio and a theatre with an orchestra pit. Electives and activities include rock band, string ensemble, choreography, pottery, photojournalism, hockey, skiing and yoga—to name a few.
The school’s teaching philosophy centres on whole-child development, resilience and independence, all of which are crucial to a student’s ability to thrive beyond graduation.
Patel is acutely aware of the challenges facing today’s young people. He says rapid societal changes—including increasing global competition for university spaces, massive technological disruption and the rise of helicopter parenting—are having considerable effects on youth.
“All of that pressure has created a spike in mental-health issues. More than ever kids are feeling lonely and isolated,” he says. “Brentwood is all about the people, the family, the community.”
Situated on the side of a West Vancouver mountain is Mulgrave School, a co-ed International Baccalaureate (IB) school that serves students from pre-kindergarten through Grade 12.
Mulgrave SchoolWith a firm belief that life-long learning is built on curiosity, creativity and innovative thinking, Mulgrave places high value on entrepreneurship. The school offers formal entrepreneurship classes and is looking to create a physical space where students can develop their entrepreneurial ideas outside of school hours.
“We’re continually surprised by what our students are doing outside of school, so we asked: ‘How can we support that?’” says Head of School John Wray.
“Being enterprising and entrepreneurial—those are life skills, whether you’re a doctor or an artist.”
Crofton House School
Founded in 1898, Crofton House School has established itself as one of Vancouver’s most prestigious private schools.
Set on a lush 10-acre campus in the heart of the city, the forward-thinking, independent day school for girls has a long history of inspiring excellence.
The school has recently implemented a bursary program in keeping with its commitment to welcome extraordinary girls from a diverse range of backgrounds. The program, for students entering Grade 8, covers the full or partial cost of attending Crofton House.
With 901 girls enrolled this year from junior kindergarten to Grade 12, the school prides itself on offering a supportive and joyful learning environment that prepares girls for life ahead.
Pear Tree Elementary School
Pear Tree Elementary is a uniquely progressive day school on Vancouver’s west side with a focus on active, hands-on learning.
Pear Tree ElementaryThe school, which includes kindergarten to Grade 7, prides itself on its small classes and its teachers—all of whom have earned masters’ degrees. As part of its whole-child philosophy, the school offers a healthy hot-lunch program that is included in tuition—plus there are daily physical education classes.
“We offer a leading approach that develops well rounded children who can be happy and successful in all aspects of life,” says Paul Romani, Co-founder and Director of Pear Tree Elementary.
St. Margaret’s School
St. Margaret’s School, on Vancouver Island, has a long, rich history of educating girls. But rather than dwell on its past successes, the school tends to look to the future, regularly breaking ground in the fields of science, technology and most recently, work experience.
The K-12 school—which takes day students as well as boarders—was the first girls’ school in Canada to offer a STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) curriculum.
And one of the school's programs integrates real-world work experience into career classes. By the time students finish Grade 12, students will have 100 hours of work experience to add to their resumés and university application packages.
“We believe it is important for our students to have practical experience of the workplace to complement what they are learning in the classroom,” says Head of School Cathy Thornicroft.
Developing students with “strong minds and good hearts” is the foundation of Southridge School’s philosophy.
Located in South Surrey, the co-ed day school has a K-12 curriculum that places as much value on goodness as it does on knowledge.
“We are a small school, where our students are known and cared for,”
says Head of School Drew Stephens. “Trust among our students, and across our entire school community, is evident by the fact that we have no locks on our lockers. In our classrooms, we embrace inquiry and discussion-based learning.”
The senior school stands out as the only school in Canada with a fully implemented Harkness philosophy, which is a discussion-based collaborative approach to learning.
Stratford Hall School
Surrounded by the diverse and vibrant community of East Vancouver, Stratford Hall offers an International Baccalaureate program for students in kindergarten through Grade 12.
Founded in 1999, the co-ed day school aims to equip students with the academic and life skills required for life after graduation.
“The urban community that surrounds us helps our students develop into well rounded, empathetic citizens; people with values, sensitivities and intellectual tools that will enable them to thrive and lead in our increasingly interconnected world,” says Head of School Dean Croy.
The school, which occupies two city blocks at the south end of Commercial Drive, features a unique IDEA Lab, where students of all ages gather to create, invent and tinker.
West Point Grey Academy
Overlooking English Bay, the North Shore Mountains and Vancouver’s downtown core, West Point Grey Academy has an outward-looking view of the world, which is fitting for a school with a global focus.
West Point Grey AcademyStudents in the junior school (junior kindergarten to Grade 7) take Mandarin or Spanish, in addition to French, while students in the senior school (grades 8 through 12) have the opportunity to apply for the school’s Global Studies Program, which has close ties to UBC’s Liu Institute for Global Issues.
The school, founded in 1996, is also a member of the Global Online Academy, a non-profit organization that facilitates online courses with peers and teachers from other member schools around the world.
Major changes are underway at Urban Academy, a co-ed kindergarten through Grade 12 day school in New Westminster.
Urban AcademyThe growing school, founded in 2001, will be moving into a new, purpose-built facility in January. The building will allow for more than double the number of students currently enrolled and will house modern science labs, art spaces, a community kitchen and a full-sized gymnasium. The centrally located campus attracts students from several surrounding municipalities, including Coquitlam, Vancouver and Surrey.
The school staff like to say that the best part is that at Urban Academy, a child receives a world-class education without pretense, flash or fluff.
Our Kids Media
For parents wanting a one-stop experience in the hunt for information on B.C.’s independent schools, Our Kids Media has been the trusted source for 20 years.
The Canada-wide organization offers annual expos in addition to its comprehensive website, which allows families to research and compare schools within one site.
In addition to listing school locations, tuition estimates and school size, Ourkids.net offers editor reviews of the top schools as well as parent and student reviews.