Lady Elizabeth School Educating Northern Costa Blanca
Though the Lady Elizabeth school does not use the word ‘international’ in its title, this exceptional independently funded school is amongst the top echelon of international schools in Spain. The Junior school was opened in 1987, the Senior school a little later, in the 1990s.
In 2007 Laude, a Madrid-based company which owns and operates a network of private schools in Spain, took over the operation of Lady Elizabeth and in 2010 the school was given top rating by El Mundo, the 2nd largest newspaper in Spain. The report cited, amongst other attributes, the high incidence of admission by Lady Elizabeth alumni into prestigious universities in Spain, Germany and the U.K.
As one of Spain’s most outstanding private international schools, Lady Elizabeth adheres to highest standards of the English National Curriculum for students from the ages of two to eighteen. Beginning with what’s known as ‘early years training’, IE. nursery through kindergarten and proceeding through the highest level of Junior school at age eleven to the Senior school where the curriculum for each student is focused on individual inclination and aptitude.
Sports are important and competition is encouraged in all levels of the school, with traditions of outstanding sports achievement. As a useful note, the school is also affiliated with the Royal Academy of Arts, the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts and the Associated Board of the Royal School of Music
Lady Elizabeth’s Junior school is located in the Cumbre del Sol area of Benitachell, which is slightly inland but still has about two kilometres of Mediterranean coastline within its boundaries; the entire municipality only covers about 12 square kilometres. The school is about equidistant from Alicante to the south and Valencia to the north (about an hour’s drive either way), next door to Javea and close to Denia, Calpe, Altea, Benidorm, Benissa and Moraira.
Panoramic views of the Mediterranean are so common in this area that they’re almost irrelevant to the school as a whole, but it’s likely that the views from the Junior school are at least a minor selling point with parents if not kids. A far larger selling point is the up-to-date, spacious air-conditioned rooms – thirty of them. Four of these are equipped with interactive white boards, with another in the ‘common room’ for use by all staff members.
There is an area specifically designed for the early years (pre-nursery and foundation, toddlers through age six) with a bathroom in each of the large classrooms and wide doors opening onto an enclosed soft-floored patio. This is where youngsters have access to top quality outdoor play equipment and plenty of room to frolic and exercise.
The library holds more than 5,000 books in English and Spanish, both fiction and non-fiction, for the children to choose from, as well as games and puzzles that combine learning and fun. There is also a purpose-built ICT room, with fast internet and big new flat screen monitors. There are few if any kids who don’t thoroughly enjoy the lessons in such subjects as drawing software, multimedia presentations, spreadsheets and word processing, not to mention the freedom to explore the internet in a safe environment.
In addition to regular classrooms there is a music room equipped with keyboards as well as other instruments, and two separate rooms for private lessons. Then there’s the psicomotricidad room, where kids can practice and test their physical abilities using specially designed equipment that helps them develop and enhance motor skills.
The prevailing climate of sunny, temperate weather obviously makes outdoor activities a large part of students’ lives, and the students are encouraged to take full advantage of this bonus. Most of them are involved in one or two or several sports and friendly competition is also encouraged. Since each student belongs to one of four ‘houses’ during his or her entire career at Lady Elizabeth, competition is guaranteed, but sportsmanship and courtesy are emphasised at least as much as team spirit, and the aim to the promote mutual respect and understanding amongst youngsters at the earliest age and throughout their time at the school.
The four houses (there is no mention of a Sorting Hat, but each student is placed in one of them,) are distinguished by their colours. Woburn House is blue; Chatsworth House is green; Longleat House is yellow and Marlborough House is red. All students are required to wear a uniform, and that is considered another bonus for both parents and children.
The Senior school for ages eleven to eighteen is not far away in Lliber, a village next to Benissa; if you look up Lliber in Wikipedia, the presence of the Lady Elizabeth school is almost the first fact you’ll see in its description. That is also a fact which works well for the students and faculty of the school, as it’s surrounded by beautiful mountains that change colours with the seasons.
At the Senior school students of different cultures and backgrounds continue studying and interacting with the same emphasis on mutual respect and understanding. Individuality, creativity and confidence are encouraged at all levels; students are expected to make full use of special abilities and aptitudes, with enthusiastic, dedicated and highly trained instructors.
All students in the Senior school are required to follow the British Curriculum but can include the Spanish Curriculum if they choose. They can also choose to study French or German at all levels from introductory to advanced. During their ninth year GCSE (General Certificate of Secondary Education) topics are introduced, and in year ten English, Spanish, Mathematics and one Science course are mandatory.
Options for career choices are varied, and are meant to give students the opportunity to pursue their individual interests. From Business Studies to Performing Arts and from Physics to Physical Education, the choices include most fields of endeavor; History, Geography, Biology, Chemistry as well as Music, Art and more are on offer, and professional guidance is available at all times. Year ten students can also check out the opportunities in the outside workforce, to give them a better idea of which subjects to study as the groundwork for their future careers.
The Sixth Form is made up of a group of students who have excelled in their chosen studies, with at least five GCSE passes grade C or above. In addition to demanding academic requirements, they serve as mentors for students in years seven and eight. Many of the Sixth Form students have achieved ‘Top in Spain’ and ‘Top in the World’ awards from the Cambridge Examination Board and the Edexcel Examination Board.
An extremely relevant programme that sets the Lady Elizabeth school apart from most is its MUN or Model United Nations conference. Different countries are represented by each participant; they engage in serious debate and practice public speaking, solving diplomatic problems and negotiating. The aim is to familiarise and prepare the students for the workings of complicated international relations and the place they may have in future dealings with different aspects of a complex world.
The 6th Formers or Head Students also have such pleasant duties as organising the annual Sixth Form Ball, a chance to relax, have fun and dress up to the max while temporarily forgetting the stress of upcoming exams. They help organize the many charitable events that take place during the year, and in general serve as mentors and examples for younger students.
As previously noted, all students stay in their designated house throughout their career at Lady Elizabeth. In addition to earning ‘house points’ for such qualities as initiative, consideration for others, good behavior and overall performance, the friendly rivalry between houses promotes a sense of belonging to a team and valuable practice interacting with each other on a respectful basis.
Though the Lady Elizabeth school places emphasis on academic advancement, equal emphasis is given to developing positive traits such as tolerance, a strong work ethic, integrity and creativity. The priority, according to Headmaster Richard Wijerat, is for the students to be happy. He says that “. . . a happy child is a motivated young person who will focus on [his or her] talents and perform to a high level.”
The school prospectus states that when students leave at the end of 6th form they are “on the verge of adulthood”, ready to take on the workplace and the world on its own terms. They are “. . .happy and confident and have been stretched academically, creatively, physically and emotionally”. This is a lofty goal, but students find it quite attainable and worth the work.