The director of education at a new independent college in Chalfont St Giles said the unique school has got off to a ‘fabulous’ start.

Newland College, in Newland Park, opened to students for the first time at the beginning of the new school term and director of education Darlene Fisher said the start has been ‘incredibly positive’.

She said: “This school has been a year and a half in the making. It is fabulous to see it all come together finally.

“The first day was glorious. We had all the teachers, all the parents and the students come in for breakfast. There were lots of smiles and lots of fun and we introduced everyone to each other and the kids were really excited.

“It has been a very positive start.”

The school, which is the only school in the area to offer the International Baccalaureate Middle Years Programme (GCSE equivalent), is one of three academic schools run by family company Skola.

From 2017 the sixth form will open offering the A level equivalent IB Diploma and next year, students will be able to board at the site whether they live overseas or in Bucks.

Ms Fisher, who has taught at schools across the globe, believes the IB programme is important for ‘empowering students’ and puts emphasis on teaching them how to be a global citizen.

She said: “We have chosen the IB because it is globally focused, it is international. It connects students to other schools in other places and other kids and it’s a part of the programme that children develop an awareness of what is going on in the world and a sensitive responsibility for making the world a better place.

“That broader picture enriches their experience at school but also enriches their ability to develop a career and create a life that is going to be taking them out into the whole world.”

David Shandley, deputy head teacher, said: “The IB is about becoming a global citizen, for example they have recorded a video message for a school in Kazakhstan so we can start a connection with them.

“These are things we really want to encourage, improving their outlook and open-mindedness about the world around them. It is a great lesson in life and valuable for them to have that as they grow up.”

Ms Fisher is adamant that the IB programme should be available to all children regardless of ability.

She said: “The IB is for all sorts of students, you don’t have to be super brilliant, you just have to be willing to work hard and try and be organised. You develop skills, not just learn bits of content.”

Mr Shandley said: “The IB has a broad base of subjects; it is very well respected in universities. It is not so much the calibre of the student you start with. The IB teaches you to be more of an independent learner and manage your time.”

At full capacity, the school will have a maximum of 14 pupils per class, with four lessons a day lasting 80 minutes each, plus sports and activities like yoga.

Ms Fisher hopes the smaller class sizes will prevent children from ‘getting lost within a classroom.’

She said: “If you have a big class in a 35 or 40 minute lesson, even if every child spoke for a minute and the teachers say nothing, that is still just one minute. We have 80 minute lessons and 14 children; everyone has the chance to talk.

“We have a round table to encourage the students to communicate with each other and to have a deep dialog with each other and the teacher. We treat them like individuals.” 

Ms Fisher says treating the pupils as individuals is part of the ethos of the school.

She said: “We are a community of people committed to doing the very best we can. The children are feeling very much respected as individuals which is great. That is part of the ethos of this school. Part of the curriculum is things like, apart from the flourishing and wellness, pastoral care which underlies everything we do.

“The children are also encouraged to follow their own passions and interests in their subject areas and things they are particularly curious about. We are respecting who they are and their individual interests. It is not a school where kids get lost or ignored.

“The focus is on empowering our students so they can learn what they need to learn, when they need to learn it and that is because most of the jobs they will do when they are older do not exist yet. We teach them resilience and we are looking at how we can build our students’ confidence, skills and abilities so they can deal with an unpredictable world.”