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The presumed future Queen of Spain is set to start a $95,000 course at a progressive Welsh school.
Many UWC Atlantic students receive full or partial scholarships to improve access to education.
Former royal students include Princess Elisabeth of Belgium and Dutch King Willem-Alexander.
If it takes a village to raise a child, what does it take to raise a royal child? United World Colleges (UWC) Atlantic should know - the school has taught a handful of royals and will welcome Princess Leonor de Borbon of Spain this September.
The 15-year-old eldest daughter of King Felipe VI and Queen Letizia, and presumed heir to the throne, will attend the Welsh school to study an International Baccalaureate (IB) course that costs upwards of $95,000 for two years.
Despite the price tag and unconventional 12th-century St Donat's Castle campus, Atlantic College is far from an elitist institution for the rich and famous. Instead, it touts itself as a force for educational change with seafront views of Glamorgan.
According to the principal, Peter T. Howe, over 60% of Atlantic College students receive full or partial scholarships to ensure that finances are not a barrier to quality education. "It's not just for rich kids. It's not just for poor kids," Howe told Insider.
"Having a princess learning alongside a refugee is a really positive experience, both for the students, but also for the learning that takes place in a classroom," Howe said.
It's not just Princess Leonor who will travel from Spain to undertake the IB course during the next academic year; the Spanish National Committee has nominated a student for a full scholarship to attend Atlantic College. It was also announced on Tuesday that a second royal, Princess Alexia of the Netherlands, will be part of the same intake.
The school has a rich history and was established as a way for students to form international bonds early on in life
The collection of UWC schools was founded by German educationalist Kurt Hahn in 1962 as a Cold War initiative "to engage young people from all nations in finding peaceful means to bring together a world divided by political, racial and socio-economic barriers," according to a press statement received by Insider.
It welcomed its first cohort to the 122-acre castle grounds in 1962 and since then, UWC has established over 18 campuses across four continents and invites more than 10,750 pupils per year who have been nominated to attend by national committees in their home countries. Committees consist of UWC alumni, parents of alumni, education professionals, and community leaders who embody UWC's ethos.
"The idea is that if you bring students together from around the world for the final two years of their high school, they would form these bonds of friendship that would be stronger than their nationalist ties," Howe said.
So what does an average day look like in the school The Times dubbed "Hogwarts for hippies?" While there are no herbology or potions classes, the school does teach topics you might not find on most curriculums such as the environment, social inequality, and activism to prepare students for the injustices of real life.
Students have four formal classes per day between 8 a.m. and 1 p.m, but afternoons are reserved for personal development. It is up to each student to decide if their time is spent on sports, creativity, or community initiatives.
Howe believes this agency encourages students to become independent thinkers, and that minimizing classroom time allows "space for other things to happen."
Independence is one of many skills that has helped to shape future leaders, including King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands who was part of the school's lifeboat service, Princess Raiyah bint Al Hussein of Jordan, and most recently, Crown Princess Elisabeth of Belgium.
UK boarding schools are often criticized for creating out-of-touch environments - in 2020, for example, a teacher at the prestigious Eton College was dismissed for promoting anti-feminist sentiments to boys, as reported by The Times.
Howe said humility is a top priority at Atlantic College. They want to ensure every student is treated equally, regardless of royal or social status - teachers are even called by their first name to avoid the typical hierarchy of the education system.
Students live in four-person dormitories they share with young people of different nationalities in their year group. The college has eight boarding houses, each of which hosts 48 students across male and female corridors.
For decades, the secluded campus has provided high-profile students with privacy to navigate the trials of early adulthood, and since the pandemic began, the boarding school has been in the rare position of being able to continue teaching the IB program in person by following strict safety protocol.
The school has continued in-person classes during the latest UK lockdown
The UK has recorded over 4.2 million cases of coronavirus according to data from Johns Hopkins University, and Wales has been in a national lockdown since December 20, 2020. While elementary school children attending day schools are set to return to classes on March 15, no date has been confirmed yet for 16 to 18-year-old students.
When the 2020 intake of Atlantic College students arrived in September, they were asked to quarantine for 14 days. As part of the British Boarding Schools Association Safe Charter protocol, staff from the school were required to collect all students traveling to the UK at London Heathrow airport and drive them to Wales in UWC minibuses. Students and teachers who have chosen to remain confined to the school grounds full time are allowed to interact with one another without wearing masks.
Teachers living in the surrounding villages follow strict protocol when they enter the campus, such as using masks, physical distancing, frequent handwashing, and sanitizing their area of the classroom between classes. These teachers eat meals in separate areas and use separate bathrooms to minimize risk to others on campus.
Further restrictions include a 20-person capacity limit for each classroom, and students must practice social distancing and wear masks when interacting with teachers who live off-campus.
The school made the decision to allow students to go home for the holidays (in line with government guidance at the time) after receiving a donation of rapid tests from a parent. Upon their return to school, students were tested, quarantined for two weeks, and tested again before mixing was allowed.
At the time of writing, the campus remains virus-free, though some international students have been made to continue their classes online due to travel restrictions that prohibit them from entering the UK.
Students take away more than just academic credentials
Queen Noor of Jordan, the president of UWC and mother to Princess Raiyah, said in a post on the school website that a UWC education equips students with the skills they need "to become activists for a more peaceful and sustainable world."
Howe says that students are taught about uncomfortable realities such as racial inequality. In 2020, students of color were supported to share their experiences during a town hall held in the wake of George Floyd's death. The school also encourages students to "organize and run conferences" on the issues that matter most to them.
Howe says he is proud that many of these teachings cannot be measured by percentiles or scores. "I refuse to publish our IB results," he said. "I fundamentally don't believe that's the measure of success and if you think that's the measure, then this probably is not the right school for you."
Read the original article on Insider