Fifty years ago my parents, Mr and Mrs Arthur F Powell, were confronted with a problem which is not unfamiliar to many parents nowadays. Where do we send the children to school?
Nowadays, the answer is simple, if not easy. There is a huge variety of schools to choose from; schools offering an education in different languages or several; single-sex schools; co-educational schools and schools subscribing to various religious persuasions or indeed, to none.
Runnymede College was founded by Arthur F Powell and his wife Julia in 1967 after they shunned the options available in the Madrid and instead courageously chose to create their own island of freedom and excellence. Arthur Powell became Founder Chairman of the National Association of British Schools in Spain in 1978, from which organisation he resigned in October 1991. Mr Powell and his wife Julia managed the School until their retirement in 1998.
The School Today
Runnymede College is a leading private non-denominational British school in Spain offering a British education to boys and girls of all nationalities from the age of three to eighteen. The School regards its task as being to provide its pupils an academically excellent, all-round liberal humanistic education and the necessary basis to succeed in the adult world, and above all, to help them to acquire a moral sense as members of the international, world-wide community.
50 years of Runnymede
50 years of Runnymede
Runnymede College, the year of its founding; 1967. There were 40 pupils in the first year from various countries and a total of four full time teachers.
The first Runnymede College was established in a red house in Calle José Rodríguez Pinilla 13. Whilst the dining room and bedrooms were classrooms, there was a sumptuous wooden-panelled drawing room which did service as a music-room, place of assembly and library, but was a shocking waste of space.
Our founder, Arthur F Powell, and his distinguished guests during the first Speech Day 1968. The same event format is still used in School Prize Givings today.
Mr and Mrs Arthur Powell in the Headmaster’s Study in 1973. Julia Powell played the indefinable yet pivotal role that headmasters’ wives traditionally have in independent schools: according to Arthur she was “everybody’s aunt, confidante, interpreter, doctor, discipline model and source of inspiration and courage when others feel they can no longer go on – especially her husband.” As well as her three children, there was Runnymede. Arthur had planted the seed and she had breathed life into it. The School was theirs, his and hers.
The number of pupils rose to 70 in 1968 and by the summer of 1969 the house at José Rodríguez Pinilla was too small and impracticable. After frantic searching, Arthur found rented premises at Calle Arga 13 in the quiet residential area of El Viso at the top end of Calle Serrano, and Runnymede 2 opened in the September.
In 1973, Frank Murphy, a key figure in Runnymede’s history and deputy headmaster as of 1977, arrived as the School’s first full time physics teacher. He has been both the founder’s and headmaster’s right hand man and can still be found teaching Further Mathematics A Level in Runnymede 44 years later.
Runnymede College, with pupils of 33 nationalities and 6 continents at the time of this photograph (1972), has always promoted a multicultural and secular
The most popular sport was riding, initially at El Trébol where a well-known gymkhana was held every June. Every Saturday morning some 40 pupils went riding with Arthur in the Casa de Campo.
The lack of facilities at Runnymede did not prevent the School from quickly gaining a reputation among the English-speaking community in Madrid for extra curricular activities, particularly music and drama. In December 1969, “Runnymede Revels”, a variety show, was so successful that it was repeated to a packed house at the British Club.
In the words of Arthur, the study of Music develops a very important aesthetic sense: a fundamental part of the human personality. It may be useless in the market place (in fact Runnymede has produced some highly successful professional musicians) but it enormously enriches the inner lives of those who pursue its study, adding grace, beauty, harmony – and often fun – to their lives. The pupil in the photograph, David Broza led Runnymede’s first rock band and eventually became one of Israel’s most popular musicians travelling the world as a singer-songwriter and peace activist. His music mixes modern pop with Spanish music.
NABBS and the OBE
in 1978, Arthur founded the National Association of British Schools in Spain (NABSS), of which he was president until 1991, in order to facilitate the inspections which were the prerequisite for authorisation. Every school in Spain that was authorised, or wished to be authorised, to impart a British-type education had to be a member of the NABSS. This no doubt contributed to Arthur being awarded the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 1993 New Year’s Honours List for services to the British community in Spain.
In a good season, pupils were able to go up to the Sierra de Guadarrama, to Valcotos, after lunch and be back before seven o’clock, having skied from 3 o’clock to 5.30 – the ideal length of time to start learning or to get your ski legs back. Yearly Ski Trips to Llesuy, Astun, Cerler, Andorra or Sierra Nevada have been organised ever since.
The Old Runnymedians’ dinner in London, traditionally held at Verdi’s Trattoria in Southampton Row, had become a regular event in the calendar, gathering together a disparate group of former students to exchange stories and compare notes about their experiences at school or in their professional lives. In 1984, the first such dinner was held in Madrid at the Jai Alai restaurant.
A feature of the School was the very good three-course Spanish lunch, free to teachers. Arthur and Julia understood that many of the teachers were young, single and out to enjoy themselves, without the steadying influence of spouse, family or the familiar influences that might operate back home.
Some Favourite Runnymede Menus at the time: Rice à la Cubaine / Ham and salad / Tangarines Lentil soup / Meat balls à la jardinière / Crème caramele Spanish omelette / Roast chops and vegetables / Apples
Runnymede enters the Computers age. Following the launch in 1980 of the British government’s Micros in Schools campaign, which aimed to put at least one micro-computer into every school, Runnymede bit the bullet in 1983. Secondary schools in Britain had an average of seven. Not to be outdone, Arthur decided to install seven computers even though schools in the UK were considerably larger than Runnymede.
Like his brother Charles and sister Paloma, Frank received all his secondary education at Runnymede after which he studied economics at University College, London. He took his Post Graduate Certificate of Education at the Institute of the University of London and went on to teach at Charterhouse before coming to Runnymede in 1983 as teacher of economics and Spanish, and assistant headmaster.
In April 1987 the Prince and Princess of Wales visited Madrid, and Runnymede pupils were given the opportunity to meet them outside the Prado Museum. After waiting for about an hour in the broiling sun for them to emerge, Prince Charles won their hearts by coming straight over to one of the pupils, Julián García, at around 2 o’clock and asking him, “Have you had lunch yet? Sandwiches or a proper meal? Will you get the afternoon off for this or do you have to go back to class?”
In September 1987, Runnymede opened a Primary (Junior) School at a large house at Calle Turia 3. History was repeating itself. Just as Arthur and Julia had started Runnymede to provide a secondary education for their three children, so did their eldest son Frank and his wife Cristina wanted a junior school for their two children. The teaching head of the Junior School was Christopher Say and there was a staff of five other teachers including Annie Davies, who is still at Runnymede, Audrey McIlvain who taught for two years, and 64 pupils.
Sports Day in the first year, at which Say sent participants round the field for a further lap as one circuit was not considered taxing enough, and pupils took part in tournaments and events against other schools. This was on a much reduced scale compared to the School’s participation nowadays but nevertheless 1st and 3rd place were achieved in the Inter Schools Cross Country.
Authorisation, Accreditations & Inspections
Date: 13th November 2015
Inspector: Julie Harris
Reason for Inspection: Demolition of a pre-fabricated building which was previously used to house secondary pupils and an increase in pupil numbers from 800 to 867. This increase has been largely in early years and primary.
The school was inspected in April 2014 and given full authorization from nursery to year 13 for a period of six years. Since this inspection the school has been obliged to demolish a temporary building which housed secondary pupils in three classrooms, only one of which was used on a full-time basis.
The school has purchased the adjacent school and will be able to move into this space no later than 2020. Therefore, the changes made to the current accommodation are of a temporary nature. Once Runnymede College takes possession of the adjacent school, there will be ample room for further growth in pupil numbers.
The school has successfully adapted the existing space to accommodate the classes previously taught in the classrooms they have lost.
The following changes have been made:
• The computer suite is now used as a classroom. The school has provided individual iPads for all pupils in year groups which previously used the room for their information and technology (IT) lessons. This will allow the curriculum requirements for IT to be met and allow access to IT in other subjects. Pupils in years 12 and 13 use their own computers or tablets.
• Part of the space previously used as a sixth form common room has been converted into a classroom. The sixth form pupils have been provided with an attractive outdoor relaxation area, and a small indoor common room remains. Ample study space is available for pupils in the senior school library.
• An office space has been converted into a small classroom which is used for Advanced level subjects which have a smaller number of pupils.
As stated in the previous inspection, many of the classrooms in the secondary school are “just adequate in size for the number of pupils”. This continues to be the case and the new classroom spaces, which have been created to replace those which have been demolished, are also just adequate in size for the number of pupils.
The early years and primary classroom are all adequate in size for the increased number of pupils on roll, and some rooms are large and spacious.
It is recommended that full authorisation be maintained from nursery to year 13 for six years from the date of the previous inspection (29th April 2014) and the authorization for pupil numbers be increased to 870 to accommodate the current number on roll.
Date of inspection: 29th April 2014
Inspection Team: Heather Muntaner (Lead) Jason Martin (Team)
Overall Recommendation: It is recommended that the school is given full authorization from Nursery (age 2) to Year 13 (age 18) for 800 pupils for a period of six years
“The authorisation of British schools in Spain is governed by Royal Decree 806/1993, which specifies that schools must satisfy the legal requirements laid down in the country of origin and that the education received by the pupils be officially valid for that country. The main purpose of inspection by NABSS is to ascertain whether a centre should be recommended for authorisation or have its authorisation as a British school in Spain revalidated. To comply with the Spanish decree, the school must have acceptable facilities and offer a British education based on the National Curriculum, taught by suitably qualified staff and using accepted methodology and teaching resources. Before authorisation can be granted by the Spanish authorities, satisfactory compliance with the decree has to be certified by the diplomatic representative for British education in Spain. This is the responsibility of the British Council’s Director in Spain who acts as Cultural and Educational Counsellor for the British Embassy in Madrid.”
from the Handbook for the Inspection of British Schools in Spain, NABSS
Report of Inspection Visit to Runnymede College, Madrid
1.1. Runnymede College was founded in 1967 by the late Arthur Powell OBE, as a provider of a British secondary education to pupils of all nationalities except Spanish. The junior school was founded in 1987 and in 1990 the whole school moved to purpose built premises in La Moraleja area of Madrid. In 1993, the school obtained authorisation to accept Spanish pupils and in 1998 with 400 pupils on roll, the school moved to its present site in the same area. The school continues to offer a British education, based on the National Curriculum.
1.2. Currently there are 801 pupils on roll from Nursery to Year 13. Of these, 372 pupils are in the junior school and 429 in the senior school. All year groups are two form entry except for Years 7, 10 and 11, in each of which there are three teaching groups. There are 107 pupils in the sixth form where subject class numbers vary but always allow for a good pupil/teacher ratio. Sixty eight percent of the pupils are Spanish, six percent are British and the remaining twenty six percent is made up of diverse nationalities.
1.3. In 1998 the current Headmaster, on the retirement of his father, took over the leadership and management of the school. This continuity has ensured that the school’s initial aim of providing its pupils with a British education, firmly based on academic success and the development of sound personal values, continues today. A significant number of pupils gain places at prestigious universities worldwide.
2. Accommodation And Resources
2.1. The school grounds are attractive and well maintained. The junior school is housed in the main building while the secondary school occupies three separate prefabricated blocks, erected over time to accommodate the increase in the number of pupils on roll.
2.2. All classrooms and specialist rooms are suitably furnished, but just adequate in size for the number of pupils in many classes. Based on the observations carried out, the limited space does not have a detrimental effect on the standard of teaching. In any case, this issue will be resolved when the school obtains access to the adjacent, purpose built school which it has just purchased. This building will double the capacity of the school in terms of space.
2.3. The learning environment in the junior school is very good. Since the previous inspection an easily accessible outdoor area for the reception classes has been built. This area is well resourced, provides free flow for the pupils and is used frequently during the course of the day to support children’s learning and development. The standard of display in the junior school is very good. Samples of children’s work, posters and teaching aids all celebrate and support learning.
2.4. The senior classrooms, which are grouped according to subjects, provide for easy teacher communication and good teamwork. There are sufficient laboratories for the teaching of all three sciences and these, together with adjoining preparation rooms, allow for the effective teaching of practical skills. The information and technology (ICT) room is of a good size and is well equipped both for the teaching of the subject and for when subject teachers wish to make use of it to enhance learning and provide pupils with opportunities to practise ICT skills in other subjects. The senior school library is adequate in size and contains a good range of reading material for all age groups. It is well utilised. The environment in the senior school classrooms would be improved by more display of pupils’ work and teaching aids which would, as in the case of the junior school, celebrate and support learning.
2.5. There are adequate outdoor play areas and sports facilities are sufficient to accommodate junior school physical education (P.E). Senior pupils use the facilities of a nearby sports centre which permits the teaching of a wide range of activities.
2.6. The school has its own kitchen and dining facilities which, although well organised, are cramped. As in the case of classrooms, this issue will be resolved when the new building becomes available. Toilet facilities are appropriate to the needs of the school.
2.7. There are computers in all classrooms and interactive whiteboards in most classrooms. The latter are being replaced by overhead projectors and Apple TV. All teachers have access to iPads and these are well used both as teaching aids and, in the nursery and reception classes, for the collection of evidence and observations in order to make effective assessments of the children. Pupils in Years 5, 6 and 7 also have full access to iPads and these are well used, by both pupils and teachers, to enhance learning. For example, pupils used the iPad to research a topic in order to provide information for their peers during a group activity. Access to iPads is to be extended to other year groups.
2.8. The investment in books, practical equipment, and resources in general, is good. This investment must be maintained in order to meet the demands of the increasing number of pupils.
3. Health And Safety
3.1. The school has a satisfactory health and safety policy, and the well-disciplined nature of the pupils adds to the safety of the whole environment.
3.2. The site is secure with good entry and exit procedures. The buildings and grounds are clean and well maintained.
3.3. The school employs a qualified nurse. In addition, several members of staff are trained to administer first aid in the event of an accident. The school also has an insurance policy which fully covers immediate accident and emergency treatment.
3.4. Evacuation procedures are in place and fire drills are held regularly.
3.5. Pupils move about the school in an orderly manner and are well supervised at break and lunchtimes, thus reducing the risk of accidents.
4.1. All teachers, teaching assistants and staff who hold posts of responsibility, are well qualified and appropriately deployed for their roles in the school.
4.2. The school benefits from the combination of the expertise of long serving staff and the recent UK training and teaching experience of its younger staff.
4.3. The teacher-pupil ratio throughout the school is very good and is a contributory factor to both the school’s high academic standards and the excellent staff pupil relationships which are a strength of the school.
4.4. Teaching assistants and learning support teachers in the junior school, and science and IT technicians in the senior school, are suitably deployed. They provide good support for class and subject teachers. For example, the learning support teacher in the junior school who was working in the classroom with a group of children and intervening effectively to help and guide them.
4.5. The school psychologist works with the staff responsible for pupils with special educational needs, and with class and subject teachers, to ensure that all needs, whether learning related, social or emotional are attended to.
4.6. Opportunities for staff professional development are good. The school makes use of external training providers who deliver workshops at the school, as well as the training sessions provided at the National Association of British Schools in Spain’s annual conference. Internal workshops are organised and delivered by subject coordinators in the junior school whenever possible. Staff are also encouraged to undertake training related to their particular subject. Workshops are appropriate to the school’s needs, as defined in its development plan.
5.1. The school provides a broad and balanced curriculum consistent with the requirements of the English National Curriculum and Early Learning Goals. Allocation of time for subjects is well distributed across the timetable and in line with British practice. Since, in the senior school, ICT is only taught at key stage 3, it is recommended that all pupils in Year 9 attend lessons in this subject. Currently, Spanish pupils are unable to do so due to a clash with a Spanish curriculum subject.
5.2. Primary subject areas and secondary subjects are well coordinated, and supported by policies and schemes of work which helpfully outline objectives, methodologies, differentiated activities and assessment objectives.
5.3. Throughout the school a high emphasis is placed on literacy and numeracy which results in good levels of attainment in these areas.
5.4. Supplementary English lessons are provided for pupils who require extra support. This ensures that all pupils can access the curriculum, and make at least satisfactory progress. The teaching of English continues into the sixth form, providing pupils with the opportunity to further develop their verbal and written skills.
5.5. Since the previous inspection, a good personal, social and health education (PSHE) curriculum has been implemented in the senior school. The effect of this, combined with the established PSHE curriculum in the junior school, is evident in the general atmosphere around the school. In the senior school, the teaching of the subject is shared by tutors and subject teachers whose individual topic expertise is well utilised. Opportunities are provided for pupils to help in the local community. Junior school assemblies promote a sharing and learning culture as well as fostering confidence.
5.6. The curriculum is enhanced by extra-curricular activities, such as drama, art, debating and sport. Work experience opportunities related to pupils’ career interests are provided.
6. Teaching And Learning
6.1. On the evidence of parts of seventeen lessons observed during the inspection, the quality of teaching and learning is generally good and in some cases excellent. The best practice stems from effective questioning which encourages pupils to think, to draw conclusions, and to explain how they arrived at them. Teacher intervention to support or extend learning is good, though less successful when teachers do not clarify what children need to do to improve.
6.2. Teachers show good subject knowledge and have a clear understanding of the learning needs of their pupils. A thorough tracking system, which includes both school and external assessment, is in place. This helps identify pupils’ strengths and weaknesses. Teachers use this information when planning lessons so that these always include both support and extension activities. This planned differentiation leads to good progress at all levels.
6.3. There are a good range of effective strategies in place to support the needs of the less able within the school. Apart from the class or subject teacher, this is provided by classroom assistants and support teachers in the junior school. Both junior and senior pupils are referred to external support providers when more specific support is required. All support is organised and overseen by the school’s special needs coordinators and psychologist. This ensures that all teaching staff are aware of the pupils who are identified as having special needs and the special intervention strategies to be employed.
6.4. In general, lesson plans at all key stages are well thought out and detailed. This leads to well-paced lessons with a good balance between teacher exposition and pupil involvement in learning tasks. Clear objectives which encourage learning are shared at the start of most lessons.
6.5. Overall, classroom management is excellent throughout the school. Pupils are responsive, show interest in what they are doing and participate actively in lessons. The well-disciplined ethos of the school is reflected in the pupils’ positive attitudes and in the prevailing atmosphere which is conducive to learning.
6.6. Resources are used effectively to make intellectual and creative demands on the pupils. For example mirrors were imaginatively used in the nursery class so the children could see the shape of their mouths in a phonics activity and iPads helped senior pupils to record points in a peer assessment activity.
6.7. From the sample of pupils’ work seen, the level of presentation is good, a consequence of the consistently high expectations of teaching staff. Marking and feedback in the junior school are good. When asked, pupils are aware of what they are learning, and how much progress they are making. They find the “next step” comments provided by teachers very helpful. In the senior school, however, marking and feedback range from barely satisfactory to excellent. In some cases there is no feedback. A marking and feedback policy exists. This should be reviewed and then followed consistently by all staff.
6.8. From the evidence of pupils’ work, test and external examination results, standards of attainment are good and, in many cases, excellent.
7.1. The school is effectively led and managed by the headmaster whose vision for the school is shared by all staff. A clearly structured management system is in place. Since the previous inspection, both the senior and middle management teams have been expanded to ensure that all departments and key areas are well coordinated. There is excellent collaboration among members of the teams. The headmaster consults and involves them fully in the day to day running of the school and in its future development.
7.2. The school’s development plan shows that it has identified appropriate areas for improvement and that effective strategies are being implemented to achieve this; for example, to improve writing in key stages 1 and 2, and to enhance the PSHE programme in the senior school.
7.3. Many teachers have responsibilities over and above their teaching role. Whether this is running an extra curricular activity, coordinating a department or as a member of the middle or senior management team, all staff are aware that they have a genuine influence on the school’s development.
8. Response To The Previous Report
The school has responded effectively to meet the recommendations made in the previous inspection report:
8.1. The allocation of nursery and reception classrooms now provides access to a well-equipped outdoor area which is well used. The outdoor curriculum has been developed and adds to the quality of teaching and learning. Staff with relevant experience have been appointed.
8.2. PSHE as a subject has been implemented in the senior school.
8.3. A teaching and learning policy has been successfully implemented in the senior school. Although a policy for marking and target setting exists, it is not yet adhered to consistently across the curriculum.
9.1. Runnymede College occupies an attractive site. Currently, its accommodation provides satisfactory facilities which are suitable for British education. The accommodation available when the new building is in use will provide for excellent facilities.
9.2. The management of the school, the qualifications of the staff, the curriculum, the teaching methodologies employed and the general ambience of the school are all in line with good British practice.
9.3. The school has a clear direction and is well managed. Good plans for development are in place.
9.4. The school provides a high standard of education, based on the National Curriculum, at all levels.
9.5. The headmaster and the senior and middle management team work together effectively to ensure that the school’s high standards are maintained.
It is recommended that Runnymede College is given full authorisation from Nursery (age 2) to Year 13 (age 18) for 800 pupils for a period of six years.
Points For Consideration
1. Improve marking and feedback by revising the current policy to ensure that the response to pupils’ work is comparable and consistent across year groups and within subjects.
2. Include Year 9 Spanish students in ICT lessons.