The man behind the £57,000-a-year super elite schools coming to 30 cities by 2030
1st April 2019
It has been a long journey for Chris Whittle from small-town Tennessee to Claridge's, where the multi-millionaire American businessman is laying out his vision over the chicken pie. Whittle, who is 71, has come to London in part to schmooze would-be investors as he tries to add to the $700 million he has already raised for a network of schools for the new global elite.
In the twilight of a career that has involved owning Esquire magazine and educating the likes of Suri Cruise, Whittle is planning to open 30 schools in major cities, including London, over the next decade. The first two outposts of Whittle School and Studios, in the United States and China, will welcome pupils this September.
But Whittle isn't done yet. He and his team have spent the past four years developing his prototype for the perfect school - one fit for a global future after what he views as decades of educational inertia.
Students at the first campuses, in Washington, DC, and China's tech megacity Shenzhen, ought to notice a difference straight away. All that investment - from private equity groups, banks and individuals - has given Whittle the freedom to think big. He recruited Renzo Piano to create new buildings and convert existing sites. The Italian giant of architecture behind the Pompidou Centre in Paris and the Shard in London brought his fondness for transparency to the designs.
In Shenzhen, two eight-storey blocks clad in glass lie either side of a tree-lined boulevard. Each new school will take about 2,500 day and boarding pupils aged three to 18. More trees fringe open spaces on the roof, and each building centres on an airy piazza. Inside, rooms have at least two walls of glass and desks are arranged in circles. "Classrooms still tend to be closed boxes,' Whittle says. 'You can stand in one side of our school and see all the way through it."
Race through history will take cross-country back to its Shrewsbury roots
The Battle of Waterloo, Wellington said, was won on the playing fields of Eton. The first cross-country race, meanwhile, was won not long afterwards in the mud of Shrewsbury School.
Now its role as the birthplace of cross-country running is being recognised on the world stage as attempts are made to return the sport to its English roots and rugged routes.
When the runners lined up at the weekend for the world cross-country championships in Aarhus, Denmark, it was a Shrewsbury pupil who started the first race. Charlie Ockleston, 18, resplendent in scarlet sweater, black velvet cap and ceremonial whip, declaimed a traditional rallying cry and blew an ancient horn. It was to celebrate 200 years of the sport and the links between its quirky beginnings in public schools and the dynamic modern era.