Brookes To Open in St. Petersburg

Brookes To Open in St. Petersburg

Brookes To Open in St. Petersburg

John Harrison

Following hard on the heels of the grand opening of the Brookes School in Moscow, comes the announcement that Brookes is to open a new school in St. Petersburg later this year. This announcement may come as a bit of a surprise to many who know just what is involved in opening an international school in this country. This is particularly so when one factors in our perceptions of the state of the Russian economy, but not if one is familiar with the story of how Brookes’ large Moscow school was opened on time at the start of this school year despite what seemed to be insurmountable odds, and the commitment to Russia that the school’s management has demonstrated by making large, long term investments into Russia at a time when many investors are checking out their exit pods. For anybody who is at least a little enthusiastic about Russia, this news in encouraging and perhaps reveals that investment sentiment in Russia, when looking at the long term – and education can only be described as being long-term – is still attractive.

Zarina Abdulazizova (Director of Administration) signing the lease of the new Brookes school in St. Petersburg

The new school is in central St. Petersburg, and apparently equipped with science labs, a music suite, IT room, library, art room and all of the facilities you would expect to find in a school of this calibre. The school is now in the process of being fully licenced to operate according to meet all of the rigorous requirements of the Russian educational authorities. This is an exacting process that Brookes is only too familiar with – having gone through the same thing in Moscow. Charley King, now Head of School of Brookes Russia says that the school will open at the end of this year.

Charley King, headmaster of Brookes Russia

Apart from being a success story for Brookes, this development is also indicative of the growing importance of regeneration in St. Petersburg, something that Muscovites can be oblivious to in our  very own, highly convincing form of ‘one city syndrome.’ I asked Charley King, now headmaster of Brookes Russia, why St. Petersburg, and is there really a market for undoubtedly superb education which is, to put it bluntly, not cheap? He answered: “We see a growth market there. Gazprom has moved its entire operation up there. There are large industrial concerns such as the Hyundai production facility. We see the St. Petersburg region as being financially able to support a school like this. We do not have a cap on the number of students of different nationalities attending our schools, and are very confident that the new school, which has a capacity of 250, will be well attended.”When a school, any school, opens up another school, the new school tends to inherit the mission, vision, and style of the first school. Brookes St. Petersburg will be no exception. Charley elucidated: “The leadership team for the school will be the leadership team here in Moscow. Marketing, admissions, finance, HR & Leadership will all be from Moscow…” As in Moscow, the school will offer a complete secondary school education from Reception, age 4-5, right through to year 13, with the International Baccalaureate (IB) curriculum running throughout.

There are of course a lot of arguments for and against IB, with some educators arguing for the more traditional British or American curriculums and an equal number of educators (if not more nowadays) arguing for the more progressive nature of IB. As anyone who has taught or studied IB (I have) knows, the programme is all about personal development through projects, both individual and collaborative. In Brookes’ case, this means that their Moscow and St. Petersburg schools can work closely on various ideas and projects together. But collaboration between what will really be one school in two locations doesn’t stop there. I was somewhat surprised to discover that children from Year 5 onwards from both schools will go on residential trips to any of the other Brookes Schools around the world (Vancouver, Shawnigan Lake and Westshore in Canada, Cambridge in England, Seoul, Silicon Valley), at no extra cost to parents. This year, Charley says “our senior students will be going on a special residential ‘Royal Etiquette’ course in Oxford to sample fine dining, an introduction to etiquette, a chance to attend a ball, Wimbledon etc. At the same time, another residential field study that is being offered to students will see them travelling to Gambia to help work with under-privileged children, such as helping them build somewhere to live in. We are trying to make our field trips really educational.” The accent on an all-round education where students are given the opportunity to help communities is an integral part of the IB course, and it also demonstrates a healthy pluralism in the vision of what a secondary education is all about by the school’s headmaster, as is the case in all good schools.

Private education in Russia is still in its infancy, with only 100,000 children attending private schools out of over 14 million attending non-state educational institutions in the Russian Federation in 2017, according to the World Education Services (www.wes.org). As long as schools do abide by some very stringent regulations, there seems to be a surprising amount of leeway built into the system, thus making the introduction of innovative, foreign educational programmes, such as IB, which by design is progressive and built on the all-round development of the individual, possible. This can be said to be a somewhat different approach from the more traditional Russian approach, inherited from the Soviet system which concentrated on maths and the sciences, although Russian schools are also developing to adopt to the new environment. One might ask, however, why Russia is allowing such plurality in schools? This was a question I asked Anton Molev, the Chairman for the Committee of State Education of Moscow City Duma last year when making a series of TV programmes about Moscow. He said: “I don’t see any problem in international schools highlighting the deficiencies of the State schools, we get better results when we have the possibility of different kinds of education…”

Whatever one may think about Russia, education is clearly an area that the country intends to concentrate on over the long term, and excel in. The growth of international schools, the employment of comparatively large numbers of professional expatriate teachers, who are all, one way or the other, cultural ambassadors for their own countries, and Brookes’ latest expansion to St. Petersburg, can only be seen as evidence for this. We wish the school every success in its new venture.

www.saintpetersburg.brookes.org
Register and apply now, choosing Saint Petersburg as your school option: https://brookesmoscow.openapply.com/

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One thought on “Brookes To Open in St. Petersburg

  1. As a former employee, and friend to many of the good people that still remain at Brookes Saint Petersburg (BSP), I feel a moral obligation to share the concerns I have for the future of the community. While others may share my opinions, those expressed are solely my own and do not necessary represent those of others.
    BSP has obvious qualities unique to the school, notably the sympathetic parents, incredibly well behaved students, and outstanding teachers that I was very fortunate to learn from, on a professional and personal level. It has come with great displeasure that I have had to see colleagues/friends leave in the short time that I was at BSP. When a school sees 4 teachers with over 20years experience each in the one building all leave for personal reasons
    Elena Bystrova (HR manager) and Zarina Abdulazizova (Director of Human Resources) ignored the pleas of the expat teachers for support during the peak for the Covid pandemic last year, with all of us unable to visit friend and family during the holidays. If it wasn’t for the great comradery of Russian teachers to keep us informed on what was happening, we would have been in total fear. Unfortunately, this came too late for one employee, who out of sheer fear, left overnight and carried the burden of not being able to say goodbye to his. Such is the delicate ego of Charlie King, he refused to let the employee carry on teaching through distance learning for the sake of the students and colleague, and instead placed in the now removed Laura Rennard in a teaching capacity.
    All we received from Charlie King (Director of schools) were updates that we should be grateful to be employed, and that he had solely kept us all in the job.
    I, like everyone else, received no clarification regarding renewal of contract, or what the future of BSP would be. When I formally expressed interest in a position elsewhere during the uncertainty, I was vilified by Charlie King & John Downey (Moscow Principal) for my disloyalty to the organisation. Other teachers who had been informed they would not be having their contracts renewed as early as Christmas 2019, had their medical insurance withdrawn, bonus removed, and given 3 days to vacate their apartment, again, all during a global pandemic.
    This year has seen contracts drastically changed, with holidays cut by 5 weeks, bonuses and flight allowances heavily reduced, all without notice. The ever delegating Mark Broom has brought the school moral to an all-time low amongst staff and students. A principal fired from ISM, and given the sole mission of recruitment and retention at BSP has adversely put teachers under constant and unnecessary strain due to his unorthodox approach of delegating every single minor task, such as emailing someone to ask another person when they’re available for a meeting. The only time he has been active was during the arrival of two VIP students’, who were duly given the ever mysterious new Macbooks (promised to the school by Charlie King since the previous academic year) ahead of long suffering students and teachers still struggling with outdated laptops, along with a goody bag of Brookes merchandise to compliment a special discount.
    Teachers have been the last to be informed of positive COVID cases in the school, with Mark Broom and Charlie King deeming the information irrelevant. Those vulnerable to infection have been silenced, ignored and sent away from the school with no clear guidelines on how this will affect their salary or sick days. Those who did return found their salary reduced due to the confusement amongst the ever revolving 9+ team of accountants in Moscow.
    While multiple teachers have already left BSP, none have been replaced, leaving the over worked learning assistants to take classes, and combine year groups. All this while the school saw fit to promote administrators into sensational titles such as ‘’academic dean and director of….’’. Along hiring personal assistants. The Moscow team travel on a weekly basis to BSP, staying in hotels and/or apartments kept on retaining, dining out on the schools’ expense. I can assure you their presence in the BSP offers little to no support. All are found wondering the corridors or keeping tabs on what is happening in Moscow from the aesthetically pleasing, yet deserted ‘’parent’s café’, which was deemed more essential than having actual changing rooms for the students, who lose between 10-20 minutes either side of lessons, due to overcrowding in the toilets where they are forced to share with the entire floor.
    Some parents have taken legal action, others demanding refunds, and a majority (almost the entirety of the previous year 11 class) simply removed their children from the school, as 2 very well-respected teachers resigned. They still haven’t been replaced, and mystery surrounds what qualifications the highest fee paying students will graduate with should the school remain at its fiscally unsustainable retention rate under its 2nd incompetent principal in as many years. It has also come to my attention that these same students are now being forced to take on break time duties due to the shortage of teachers, and unwillingness of the management to help out.
    Swimming will be on the agenda this term, despite my professional objection to John Downey and Mark Broom that the facility is unsafe, the none English speaking teacher inadequate, and the message sent out that it is a part of the Physical education curriculum, which I can assure you it isn’t. If you ask to see swimming units, assessments, policies, or alternative work for non-swimmers, there is absolutely none in place, again due to the mismanagement of Mark Broom and the BSP administrators. My prediction is that he will unwarrantedly attend the swimming lessons in a brazen attempt to avoid responsibilities back at the school, often avoiding parents who are not in the VIP category.
    A vote of no confidence from staff and students toward Charley King and Mark Broom would unanimously support the notion that they are not serving the best interest of their BSP project, as they will simply refocus all their attention and finances back into the much favoured Moscow branch, before BSP is unfortunately closed.
    It’s regrettable that I should have to write this, but I could not morally allow these points to go unheard, when there are such good children in the school, parents paying high fees, and my friends/colleagues being mistreated to the extent that they are resigning, which I envision will see a total turnover in 2021.The BSP school community is aware of the situation at Brookes with Charley King and Mark Broom at the realm, and are already benefiting from the growing trend of poor reviews mounting across the internet, which will see recruitment of good teachers and students near impossible under its current management.

    As a former employee, and friend to many of the good people that still remain at Brookes Saint Petersburg (BSP), I feel a moral obligation to share the concerns I have for the future of the community. While others may share my opinions, those expressed are solely my own and do not necessary represent those of others.
    BSP has obvious qualities unique to the school, notably the sympathetic parents, incredibly well behaved students, and outstanding teachers that I have been very fortunate to learn from, on a professional and personal level. It has come with great displeasure that I have had to see colleagues/friends leave in the short time that I was at BSP. When a school sees 4 teachers with over 20years experience each in the one building all leave for personal reasons, serious concerns should be apparent.
    Brookes Russia has ultimately been mismanaged under Charley King, which should be evident by the high turnover of long serving staff, failing enrolment numbers, and the unsuccessful switch of two underperforming principals in Laura Rennard & Mark Broom.
    I’m aware that David Rose has recently visited both campuses, but I can assure you all that any accurate and authentic feedback from staff was discouraged and/or concealed, whether it be from the growing number of parents infuriated by the lack of communication from the uncompromising administration (who appear to be immune) , promised MacBooks, or exam results, to the unnervingly low morale amongst staff and students since Mark Broom took over. It has been apparent to the community that the parent’s café, weekly flights (Moscow to BSP), hotel bookings, abundance of accountants, and sponsored events, have been fiscally poor decisions by management when there is a shortage of learning assistants and teaching resources within the school.

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