Way back in 2007, the eminent journalist and former Director of the Centre for Policy Studies, The Hon Tessa (Lady) Keswick, convened a meeting to propose the establishment of a bilingual school. She strongly believed that future generations of British opinion formers and decision makers should learn Chinese at an early age and be able to operate in a world in which Chinese would be influential in business, politics and international affairs.
Attending the meeting were Mme Fu Ying, Ambassador of China to the UK and now Deputy Foreign Minister of China, Lord Adonis, then Minister of State for Education, Lord Powell, Dr Stephen Spurr, then Headmaster of Westminster School and Professor Hugo de Burgh, who had just founded the China Media Centre at the University of Westminster.
At this meeting, Professor de Burgh agreed to work pro bono towards the setting up of the first such school. However, he was travelling to China regularly and unable to devote time to the project. Thus it was shelved until the next government introduced the Free School initiative in 2010.
A larger committee was formed, including not only recent Heads of Westminster and the Dragon School but the financier Sir John Craven, Lady Wei of Shoreditch and leading architect Sir Terry Farrell.
After exploration of the Free School option – then the preferred route – with the Department of Education, it was found that the exigencies of a first class bilingual school would be impossible to meet within the Free School framework and the option of an independent school, with a charitable dimension, was explored.
At this point the Principal of the Cothill Educational Trust and founder of several of the UK’s leading junior schools, Adrian Richardson, was introduced to the Committee. His experience of setting up schools and his work for the Department for Education have been invaluable.
It is thanks to suggestions from the Department for Education that we identified and entered into a lease for the splendid premises in which the school will start in September 2017.