Greg McSkimming of Sotogrande International School in Marbella tells us about their philosophy, strategies and plans

Sotogrande International School expounds the philosophy of collaborative learning that develops active, high-achieving, life-long learners, with an understanding and appreciation of the cultural diversity.

The school applies innovative teaching and learning strategies that prepare pupils for a technological, multicultural and global society. The Primary School offers a grounding for the International Baccalaureate Primary Years Programme. Secondary students follow a programme based on the best of international, English and Spanish curricula leading to IGCSE examinations in Year 11 and the International Baccalaureate Diploma programme is offered in Years 12-13. There is also a diverse extra-curricular programme, with many activities making use of the wealth of nearby facilities.

Lucas Fox spoke to the school’s Director of Residential Life & Programmes Gregor McSkimming,  focusing on why they believe boarding is beneficial to its pupils.

CF: Why did you decide to set up a boarding house at Sotogrande International school?

GM: Central to SIS’s philosophy is Global Citizenship. We are on a journey from being a school in Sotogrande to being a Community of Learners with a truly Global perspective. We are pursuing the double benefit of growing a compassionate community which makes a difference in the world, whilst at the same time providing a competitive advantage for our students, in that they will be comfortable living and operating in the global workplace. Having a boarding community is central to this mission

CF: What facilities does it have?

GM: A lot! We have converted a former 4* hotel, which allows us to offer sector-leading accommodation and facilities. Each room is en-suite, there is wifi throughout, and we have our own (considerable) kitchens and catering team.

San Roque Campus is not just a boarding house, however, it’s an integral part of our School & community. We have a library, class rooms, recreation areas (e.g. a Gym, basketball court, two TV rooms) and office space within the campus. We even have a pool!

Our location on top of a hill in the Andalucía, overlooking the Mediterranean, helps make San Roque Campus a special place.

CF: Where has most of the interest in boarding come from?

GM: Many of our truly international mix of boarders have family homes in Spain. However many also come to us to pursue their passion in golf, windsurfing, sailing, music, drama, etc. The Spanish language is also a draw for many families.

CF: What are the main reasons why parents choose to send their children to board?

GM: Parents recognize that we provide first-class pastoral care, and that being in boarding affords their children enhanced access to the amazing extra-curricular activities we can offer in and around Sotogrande. It’s also nice to be able to have an excuse to visit the south of Spain!

CF: What advantages would you say a boarder has at a school rather than be a day student?

GM: Boarding accelerates the development of important personal qualities such as self-reliance and assuredness, independence of thought and responsibility. Modern boarding breeds happy, confident young men and women. And, of course, it’s fun! This is more important than a lot of parents realize: happy children achieve.

CF: How are the boarders’ days and weeks structured?

GM: At 8:30 every morning boarders catch the school bus to the main campus, which is 7-8 minutes drive away. Lessons are until 4pm, then a series of after-school activities keep our boarders busy until the early evening.

Prep (homework) time for our younger students is at 6:15, then we eat together at 7:30. After dinner students have free time, and many of the older students choose to continue working in the library on their academic projects.

On Saturdays students are active; they play football or golf, they ride, wind surf, rehearse for musical or dramatic productions. Sundays tend to be ‘down-time’. Catch up on a bit of academic work, then maybe go to the beach!

CF: Has there been an increased interest in the school from non-British parents in recent years? If so, why do you think that is?

GM: 15 years ago we were a British school. There was a conscious decision to change our outlook and become more of an international community, so naturally more non-Brits take notice now.

CF: Approximately what is the ratio of local pupils to non-Spanish pupils?

GM: Roughly speaking we are 1/3 British, 1/3 Spanish & 1/3 other nationalities, which makes for a really nice mix.

CF: What is the philosophy of Sotogrande International School?

GM: At SIS we help our students to become effective, compassionate global citizens. To this end we have our own NGO, The Kindred Project, which was set up, and is run by, students. “KP” provides aid and assistance to our sister schools in Uganda, Morocco, Ecuador and India. Time and again we witness students undergo transformational experiences when they visit our friends in the developing world; they come back with renewed perspective, confidence and determination to work hard and make a difference.

We also believe that happy children succeed. That’s why we encourage all our students to find and follow their passion, be it in music, sport, dramatic arts, or whatever. By doing this they feel good about themselves, and that helps them achieve academically.

CF: What curriculum does the school follow?

GM: We study the IB through the primary and mid-years program, to the diploma in the last two years of school.

CF: How can prospective parents gauge the academic achievements of the school when considering sending their children there?

GM: Last year our IB students scored an average of 35 points. In terms of university entrance this would secure our students on average 501 UCAS points. To offer as comparison, 3A* passes at full A-level equates to 420 UCAS points.

CF: How do you ensure that pupils are integrated into the local community?

GM: Through the KP all of our boarders spend time volunteering with local projects. In addition, our unique sports academies allow students to integrate with local sports men and women when they pursue their interest in golf, football, polo, tennis, sailing and wind sports. We also have a language school which is run from San Roque campus, which serves the local community as well as our students. We are rolling out this model to include music and film production this year.

CF: Can you tell us the fees for both boarding and day pupils?

GM: Our annual fees start at 8,217€ for our youngest students, boarding starts from 9,457 Euros per year. The full price list and all other documentation can be found on our website www.sis.ac