UWC Atlantic College teaches the IB Diploma Programme from a 'magical' castle setting in Wales, alongside a pioneering curriculum that is focused on creating 'changemakers'.
UWC Atlantic College delivers the two-year IB Diploma Programme for 16 -19 year olds, and with a student body of just 350 it is one of the smallest schools within the group. The only UWC campus in the UK, it is a very international boarding school with a model of "deliberate diversity" that attracts students from 90 countries each year, including refugees who receive full bursaries. Past alumni also include King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands, Princess Raiyah bint Al Hussein, and Crown Princess Elisabeth of Belgium; most recently, the school was in the headlines for enrolling the future queen of Spain Princess Leonor. As the college says,
"In line with UWC’s unique approach to education, our students can range from royalty to refugees.”
UWC Atlantic is almost as rigorous in pushing an external life and activities outside the classroom as it is academic success. Its mission is to link five elements: academics, activities, outdoor education, personal and social education, and service. This focus has grown from its origins, from it being part of United World College (UWC), a school group founded by one of the world's most influential educationalists, Kurt Hahn, who had previously founded Schule Schloss Salem in Germany, and Gordonstoun in Scotland. Hahn is also largely responsible for the Duke of Edinburgh award scheme.
Hahn's philosophy clearly seeps through into the school's current thinking, and it fits very well where the only constant is change. This is a school that talks a great deal about inspiring students to become "Changemakers", and it is constantly adapting its delivery of the IB programme to include new programmes. Once described by The Times as ‘the most exciting experiment in education since the Second World War,' UWC Atlantic is pioneering a new Changemaker Curriculum that introduce new courses such as coastal management, oral communication, peace and conflict, and reconnecting with the land.
It's a curriculum that sees students spending plenty of time off campus – foraging, caving, sea swimming, night hikes, camping, water safety skills, lifesaving, coastal walks, and much more. In the classroom, students may be designing a pop-up museum one day, hosting a mini conference for refugees the next.
Principal Peter Howe has been with the UWC movement since 2005, has a very pioneering attitude to educational innovation, is wholeheartedly committed to the school's "uniqueness", and has described the school as the "ultimate laboratory for learning". He says:
"The world around us is changing and presenting us with new challenges. We must respond to these challenges and regard them as opportunities."
In terms of teaching and curriculum, UWC Atlantic is committed to the UWC's mission to "unite people, nations and cultures for peace and a sustainable future". The college is focused on equipping students with the skills "to become compassionate, engaged global citizens who seek to make positive differences towards peace and a sustainable future". It's an education that goes well beyond the classroom and will certainly appeal to families looking for learning experiences in 'real' situations.
As a co-founder of the IB programme, UWC remains a strong advocate of its learning methods and practices; however, all UWC schools follow a co-curricular model where students divide their time between their IB studies and wider activities, service work, and outdoor education on and off campus. As well as following a rigorous IB academic programme, students complete a minimum of two hours of community service, two hours of physical activity, and a further two hours of creative activity each week in the afternoons, evenings, and weekends.
Core lessons at the school include English, maths, geography, history, physics, biology, chemistry, and economics; languages include French, Czech, Russian, Tibetan, Swedish, and Urdu. There is also a wide selection of optional courses, including design technology, music, film studies, visual arts, and global politics.
The school is piloting two new courses: ‘Land and Sea Stewardship’ tackles sustainability issues; and ‘Communication, Narrative, Dialogue and Peacemaking’ uses social psychology and theatre arts to foster peace and reconciliation.
While UWCSEA remains very focused on a rigorous academic programme, this mission-driven school requires all students to take part in its outdoor education programme and service activities. UWC Atlantic runs more than 20 outdoor trips every year, and in terms of service, the school works with many local service partners and 90 global projects.
This is a school that also takes service very seriously, and all students get involved in both local and global initiatives and concerns. In this, the IB's CAS – Community, Activity, Service – dovetails perfectly with UWC's guiding principals, as students have many opportunities to work with a range of people in the community, and in both local and global initiatives.
The school celebrates its international culture with regular events and an annual UWC Day, and all students are encouraged to "pack traditional spices, a flag, and some photos".
Campus and facilities
There is something undeniably magical about this campus. UWC Atlantic not only has a castle, but 122 acres of woodland and farmland, with its own valley and seafront. Recent additions to the campus include the Moondance Sports Hall and the refurbished Agatha Christie Library, and there are plans underway to build a new Science Hub. The school has its own lifeboat service and coastal centre – the Rigid Inflatable Lifeboat (RIB) was invented by students here in the 1960s – and other outdoor facilities including a 10-acre working farm with resident donkeys and greenhouses.
There are seven residential houses, each with a day room, a quiet room, and kitchen; there are single sex bedrooms sleeping four students. All students eat together in the Gothic dining hall in the Castle. While staying at the school, students are under the 'care of houseparents' and they are offered support with local families through the Link Family Scheme.
Admission and fees
UWC Atlantic only opens applications to join the school one year in advance. This means that everyone has an opportunity to apply for the next academic year. Applications are assessed individually, taking into account the student’s background, experience, and (perhaps most importantly) the potential ‘fit’ with the school.
There are two ways to apply: for a non-funded place, apply through the UWC Global Selection Programme, which opens on October 26. To apply for a scholarship, you will need to apply through the UWC National Committee of your home country, where deadlines vary according to country.
Tuition fees for UWC Atlantic are typically more than £30,000 a year.
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