The School of the Year award at the Spear’s Awards 2023, presented in association with Thuso, recognised the very best in global education. The calibre of finalists was, once again, exceedingly high, but one school came top of the class: the British School of Brussels.
This world leader beat out brilliant competition from British private school stalwarts Benenden, Brighton College, Charterhouse, Sevenoaks School and Wycombe Abbey, as well as Dulwich College (Singapore) and Pembroke House, in Kenya.
What sets The British School of Brussels apart is its ‘values-driven’ approach to education, the judges noted, with students selected based on their attitude to learning rather than academic achievement.
The British School of Brussels: an international classroom
Established in 1969, the British School of Brussels (BSB) is an international school welcoming 1,350 students from 70 nationalities, aged 1-18.
It is expertly helmed by Melanie Warnes, who joined the school as principal in 2016. With more than 20 years of experience as a school leader, including acting as CEO of a group of seven schools, Warnes has a depth and breadth of expertise on which to draw. This was honed during her time as a UK National Leader of Education, a secondment to PwC.
The British School of Brussels prides itself on taking a ‘unified, holistic approach’ to education, noting that ‘everyone learns together’, from students and staff to their families. Notably, the school also sees the value of its place within a wider network of alumni and businesses, universities and social enterprises to inspire success.
‘We aim to develop the whole person, and so we balance academic support with pastoral care and classroom-based learning with enrichment opportunities to really broaden our students’ aspirations and horizons,’ school leaders told Spear’s.
The school welcomed more than 50 Ukrainian students after they were forced to flee the conflict in their country in 2022.
Academic achievement is important, but not everything
The British School of Brussels is rightly proud of its consistently outstanding academic results, having recorded a 100 per cent pass rate in IB results for three years running, with a 38-point average across that timeframe.
Around 50 per cent of all students achieved A-A* grades in A Levels in 2022 – no mean feat given it is a non-selective school and English is a second language for many students. Students go on to leading universities including Ivy League schools and Oxbridge – but it is not the be-all and end-all of life at BSB.
As the school puts it, ‘Students’ outcomes and top world rankings are really a happy by-product of our unique culture built on care, curiosity and collaboration. Families, both local and international, choose us because they recognise this progressive, all-encompassing approach; they see it in action every day.’
Unlike many of its elite school peer group, the British School of Brussels does not put academic attainment at the centre of its application process. Instead, the admissions team is open to hearing from pupils who will benefit from the ‘education and range of opportunities’ provided, and who will ‘thrive under, and embrace, the BSB values.
To that end, the application process involves an online application form with school reports, as well as a student recommendation form from the current school. The second stage is an interview, during which prospective students are given the opportunity to demonstrate a positive attitude towards learning.
The British School of Brussels offers three pre-university routes: A-Levels, International Baccalaureate and BTEC qualifications, emphasising the importance of an individualistic approach to education. Outside the classroom, teachers and coaches offer more than 200 clubs and activities, from tennis and tag rugby to choir and creative writing.