"About 10 percent of them will go to Oxford or Cambridge and they will be reading not music but engineering, law, medicine, veterinary science, dentistry, architecture, accountancy" said Ashley Deacon, the Director of Admissions & International Recruitment of Wells Cathedral School in his exclusive interview with us.
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BE: Could you please introduce the school first? Maybe the history and its unique standing?
Ashely Deacon (Ashley): I'm Ashley Deacon, the Director of Admissions & International Recruitment of Wells Cathedral School. We're a co-educational independent school in Somerset in Southwest of England. We've been a school for over a 1,100 years. The school was founded in 909 AD, not 1909 but 909. And if my Chinese history is right, it's somewhere around the end of the Tang Dynasty. So as I said, we think we're one of the ten oldest schools in the country.
We think we're unique in not that we do music, but we're one of the 4 specialist music schools in England recognized by the British government. As we call it a specialist school, by that we mean we offer a pre-professional level of musical training for our most gifted musicians. And they probably account for about 20 percent of the school, and they will leave Wells Cathedral School not to go on to university like the rest of the students do, but to go to a music college or a music conservatoire, like Shanghai Conservatoire or Beijing Conservatoire.
In fact, a girl I've just interviewed who's at a middle school attached to the Xinghai Conservatoire in Guangzhou. In the UK where we'll see most of the students will go on to be in music colleges like the Royal College of Music, the Royal Academy of Music, the Birmingham Conservatoire. But we have students at conservatoires in Europe. We have two students currently at the Juilliard School in New York City in United States. One of them is a Chinese girl, a very gifted soprano singer.
BE: What curriculum are on offer at Wells Cathedral?
Ashley: And the unique element of that within Wells Cathedral is that level of extraordinarily good musical training with some of the very best young musicians in the country goes on in what we call a proper school. And by that I mean, those other 80 percent of the students will be leaving to go on to university. About 10 percent of them will go to Oxford or Cambridge, and they will be reading not music but engineering, law, medicine, veterinary science, dentistry, architecture, accountancy, literally everything down from the alphabet accountancy to zoology. So it's a proper school in that sense.
A broad array of academic subjects. Our curriculum is based on the English national curriculum. So we teach the last stage of that A levels, the key academic qualification that gives you entry into a British university and universities around the world as well. And before that the GCSEs. Typically students will graduate from Wells, having taken 3-4 A level subjects. And in the 2 years before that maybe 10 or 11 GCSE subjects. So a broad education, an education sufficiently help them matriculate, and will get them the access to any universities in the country they wish, including Oxford or Cambridge.
BE: How about the extra-curricular activities at your school?
Ashley: We call them at Wells co-curricular activities rather than extra-curricular activities. And that reflects the fact that we consider them as important as the curricular activities, as what goes on in the classroom. And the reason we attach such importance to them is that yes of course, parents and Wells' educators want children to fulfill their academic potential, but what we're able to do is do that in a way that build their character, and it enables them to develop as individuals.
That might be through sport, through playing a musical instrument, playing an orchestra, something like that. It might be through debating, might be through rock climbing, or sailing, things that push the students quite often in the physical way outside of their comfort zone. Those are things that are initially a bit like the interview that we're doing now. It's quite scary at the start, but you get an adrenaline rush from air time, you learn that experience and that builds your character.
And that's an important skill to learn, because if you're to, for example, apply to Oxford university or Cambridge university, you will have an interview. And if the admissions tutor asks you "So actually what did you do apart from study at Wells Cathedral School?", and there's a silence, you will probably not get the offer of the place.
Whereas if you say "I played in the school's orchestra, and I played for the first 15 Ruby team, and I studies medieval history, and I found that really interesting because I was in this very historic city." Those are the sort of things that will mark you out from the next candidate. So those co-curricular activities are very important we think.