THE RIA STORY … SO FAR
Recognise began in 2009 with just 1 student. It was Aiden, Ms Kate Rowan’s son.
Aiden had a particular style of learning that Kate felt was being neither acknowledged nor catered for at the school he was attending.
Kate left her teaching job and started schooling Aiden at home.
Two more children, with a similar situation to Aiden’s, came to Kate’s attention.
She started teaching them too.
Three children became five, and then eight. Lessons moved from a home setting to a classroom in an office block.
Kate and the parents began to notice great changes in the children’s academic ability.
Importantly, their social confidence and personal self-esteem also grew.
The relationships the children forged with each other and with their teacher was giving them a new sense of success and belonging.
They now enjoyed going to school whereas before, they were often feeling alienated from their peers and were afraid of failure.
Word of Ms Rowan’s services spread. It transpired that there were many families who appreciated the idea of a more personal approach to schooling.
Kate began being asked to also teach ‘mainstream’ children – ie those who did not have specific learning challenges, but who preferred a more intimate school setting.
Kate then found a small villa in Shekou for a school house.
Despite the growing numbers, and the more mainstream intake, she held onto the notion that the close, personalised approach was at the heart of what was important to a child’s well-being and attainment when at school.
In early 2013, Mr Ian Taylor, our Principal and co-Director, met Kate outside a bar.
Kate was looking fraught. There were dark rings around her eyes and her hair was a mess. She seemed unsteady on her feet.
Kate was finding her work very rewarding, but there were plenty of challenges too
Ian whisked Kate to his favourite restaurant, La Maison, – these days, our excellent school meal providers 🙂 – and over a small glass of wine, or two, he listened to her woes.
Ian had worked in UK and international education for a long time and he understood the issues that she was facing.
Ian was impressed with Kate’s dedication to the children, so he scratched his brain to see if he could help.
After a few spicy indian meals and some intense correspondence, Ian and Kate realised they had a shared educational philosophy. They both agreed that in schooling terms, ‘small was beautiful’ and that there was an opportunity to develop a high quality, ’boutique’ style of school here in Shenzhen.
They thought it would be a fun and professionally rewarding thing to try to do, and that it might benefit many children and families in the area. Ian quit his job, and committed himself full-time to helping develop RIA.
The first step was to obtain an adjoining villa so as to create space for growth. We knocked down lots of walls.
We created Cognition, so as to maintain our commitment to learning support, but also to allow our mainstream section the opportunity to grow.
And grow it did.
Within a year we increased from 18 to 33 students and we were quickly gaining a strong reputation for offering quality schooling within the local expatriate community.
Gratifyingly, we also started enrolling children previously attending larger schools in the area.
The next year, we joined the houses together and made our classrooms larger. We knocked down lots more walls. We created better outdoor facilities and we employed some great new teachers.
We further refined our curriculum, adopting the high expectations of England’s National Curriculum, and we added
many more extra-curricula activities and opportunities.
We focused heavily on ensuring that lessons were active and engaging, and that we clearly differentiated for every child. We enriched our provision for technology, science, the arts, languages, music and sport, whilst keeping a keen eye on developing the crucial skills of literacy and numeracy.
We kept our school atmosphere relaxed and fun, as we were convinced that this was the best way to help a child’s learning ( and a teacher’s teaching! ).
This attracted more children, families and teachers. We started to receive many requests from local families wishing to join us, but we wanted our school to remain genuinely international.
To this end, we took a long term view and we were careful about the balance of nationality and home languages that we introduced to our school.
Together, we continued to teach every child, and to support every family, to the best of our ability.
Along the way, we had lots of help from some very special people and our ties to the local community grew stronger.
We all had a whole lot of fun too.
Recognise has become a unique and wonderful school. We presently have a capacity of 78 students, and we have children from over 30 countries who are enjoying our boutique style of education.
There is a great sense of team spirit amongst all those involved with RIA and we are very grateful to all the many people who have supported our philosophy and work.
We are excited about the future. We feel our small-scale approach is something of real value. We are witnessing students make remarkable academic progress and at the same time, develop the personal qualities of confidence, curiosity and compassion that we all wish for in our children.