21 Feb Interview with Joanne Burns, Head of ES International School, Barcelona
What accreditations does the school have?
ES International School is accredited by the Middle States Association (MSA-CESS) and the National Independent Private Schools Association (NIPSA). We are also recognized in Spain as a Centro Extranjero (foreign school) by the Generalitat de Catalunya and the Spanish Ministry of Education. Our school is a member of the Mediterranean Association of International Schools (MAIS) and the Barcelona International Schools Association (BISA).
What is the philosophy of the school?
ES International School endeavors to provide its students with an international educational experience that broadens their horizons, creates a positive learning experience, and affords each student the opportunity to excel both academically and athletically. All students receive individual attention, close academic guidance and personal counseling. Students develop a passion for learning through individualized support in a nurturing environment. Our success is founded on effective communication and an engaging academic curriculum.
What curriculum does the school follow?
All students follow an American curriculum, and graduate with the American High School Diploma upon completion of twelfth grade. Students can also chose to take rigorous Advanced Placement (AP) classes in eleventh and twelfth grade if they wish to further their mastery of subjects and demonstrate academic excellence.
Do the students learn Spanish and Catalan? How are they incorporated into the curriculum?
Students who do not have Spanish citizenship can chose to follow a 100% American curriculum, which is taught exclusively in English and contains no Catalan. Spanish as a Foreign Language can be included in this option. Alternatively, students can chose to follow both the American and Spanish/Catalan curriculum simultaneously. This means they take four core curriculum classes in the American system, and the remaining three classes are dedicated to the Spanish/Catalan curriculum. Spanish/Catalan curriculum classes are taught in either Catalan or Spanish.
What sport facilities do you have at the school?
The campus of ES International School is located within the world-class sports facilities of the Academia Sánchez-Casal, which provides high performance tennis training and physical conditioning. Sports are an essential part of the curriculum. The Academy currently has the following facilities available for ES International School students:
27 tennis courts 2 beach volleyball courts
6 paddle courts 2 basketball courts
A Gymnasium 3 football pitches
3 mini-tennis courts 3 fronton courts
An outside pool (used during summer months)
How are sports incorporated into the curriculum?
The schedule of classes is perfectly combined with the students’ sports training schedule, be it tennis or another sport, such as: water polo, basketball, football/soccer, etc. So, we actually have two shifts of school: first, elementary and middle school students begin classes at 8:00 am and finish around 4:00 pm, completing most of their tennis or sports training after class.
In high school, however, classes begin at 11:30 am and finish at 6:30 pm. The older students do most of their training in the morning before classes start. The schedule works really well for our athletes and non-athletes alike.
What is involved in the physical education program that you offer?
Tennis players enrolled in the Academia Sánchez-Casal high-performance sports facility typically train for 4 hours per day. However, we also offer a physical education program for non-tennis players, which is one hour per day. These students will play one hour of tennis two days a week, and the other three days they will do physical education, making use of the other sports facilities on campus, such as the gym, basketball courts or football pitches.
How can the school ensure that students get a high level of education when there is so much emphasis on sport?
We ensure a high level of education through individualized support, personal counseling and by getting to know each and every student’s social, emotional and academic needs in depth, and then meeting them effectively. Our program is highly personalized and students prosper in an environment where they feel supported and nurtured. The academic curriculum provides students with appropriate choices regarding the level of academic study they want to pursue, and this adds to the personalized approach that all students benefit from.
Approximately what is the ratio of local pupils to non-Spanish pupils? How many nationalities and which nationalities do you currently have within the school?
We have just over 100 students in our school, and typically, only 10-15% of the students are Spanish. The rest come from more than 40 different countries, such as the United States, Canada, Italy, the United Kingdom, and Russia, among many others.
Approximately what percentage of children go on to University from the school and do many of them go on to higher education outside of Spain?
Approximately 95% of our students attend university, and the majority (approximately 75%) attend university in the United States. We also have students who attend Spanish, British, European or other universities worldwide. Our students have been admitted to some of the best universities in the world, including Columbia (Ivy League), UC Berkeley, UCLA, NYU, and ESADE here in Barcelona.
What percentage of students go on to pursue a career in sport?
The 5% of students who do not attend university will pursue a professional sports career. Some alumni of ESIS who have successfully pursued professional tennis careers are Andy Murray (No. 1 in the world at the time of writing) and Daniel Vallverdu, (current coach to Grigor Dimitrov).
What is your parent community like?
The majority of our high school students reside on campus, so their parents are often far away. As a result, our parent community is global rather than local. We do have a strong local parent community in the elementary and middle schools, as parents of the younger children tend to move to Spain with their kids in order to permit them to pursue their athletic dreams. Local parents form a diverse and international community, strongly focused on helping their children achieve their academic and athletic goals.
Can pupils participate in other sports aside from tennis?
Yes, students can play any sport they like, either casually or professionally. We have had footballers, swimmers, motorcycle racers, hockey players, rugby players, basketball players and horse-riding students attend our school in the past. Students trying to combine high-performance sports and academics find both flexibility and academic excellence in our school, without having to compromise one for the other.
How do you reinforce a sense of community within the school?
Our picturesque campus lends itself greatly to fostering a strong sense of community. Within the school, students are assigned to Spirit Teams throughout the year, where they volunteer for charities, take part in outreach projects, and contribute to the environment and school community in general. An example of an outreach project is the Amics de la Gent Gran project where students and elderly people in the local community became pen pals for a year, finally meeting each other in a beautiful morning event that will be remembered fondly by both students and elderly citizens alike.
Can you describe ESIS in 3 words?
Individualization, International, and Nurturing
ES International School
Autovía de Castelldefels C-31, km 191
08820 El Prat de Llobregat