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7 independent schools in B.C. that nurture brilliance and pave the way for academic and personal growth

Here in Metro Vancouver and on Vancouver Island, these 7 schools are at the forefront of independent education, preparing our future leaders
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These independent schools in British Columbia offer holistic education beyond classrooms, helping nurture future leaders. Photo via iStock

Your kid has a high aptitude for learning, a sense of creative thinking that is unmatched, and a way of observing the world that exceeds their years. If any or all of these statements apply to your child or teen, independent schooling may be the path towards setting them up for success in their post-secondary journeys.

Independent schools offer an alternative for parents seeking an enriching educational journey for their children. In contrast to traditional public schools, independent schools are known for their smaller class sizes, individualized attention, progressive teaching methodologies (such as the Montessori and International Baccalaureate methods), and specialized learning programs, while continuing to adhere to provincial curriculum standards.

Across the educational levels of pre-elementary, primary and secondary education, these schools foster a supportive environment where each child's unique abilities are nurtured. Instructors at independent schools prioritize holistic development, emphasizing not just academic excellence, but also fostering creativity, critical thinking, and character building. With a focus on community engagement, eco-consciousness, and global-mindedness, independent schooling covers topics that are currently shaping the world today.

Choosing to enroll your child in an independent school is an investment in their future, promising a well-rounded education that extends far beyond the classroom. Right here in Metro Vancouver and on Vancouver Island, there are a number of innovative schools that are currently leading the charge in independent schooling for our leaders of tomorrow.

Bodwell High School​

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Photo via Bodwell High School

​Laughter abounds from an impromptu soccer game on the field along Harbourside Drive, with cheers mixing English and a dozen global languages. Over at the waterfront campus, youth from all cultures mingle together as classes finish for the morning.

At Bodwell High School on the North Shore, local and international students converge to learn, live and bond together in a close-knit boarding school environment, marking the beginnings of life-long connections.

“They always come back,” says vice principal Housam Hallis, who has guided students at Bodwell for nearly 30 years.

“Many graduates return to visit year after year from Vancouver and around the world. They truly see Bodwell as their second home. It speaks to the special connection they build with staff and one another.”

Bodwell High School moved into its custom-built North Vancouver campus in 2003 and recently celebrated thirty years of delivering high-quality education. With a blended population of day, homestay and boarding students, the North Shore boarding school offers three education streams towards full university preparation: International Baccalaureate (IB) in Grades 8-10, the B.C. curriculum in Grades 10-12,and Advanced Placement (AP) courses in the senior years.

In June 2023, 100 alumni were invited back to the Bodwell campus, bringing stories of academic success and career development. This summer, the 2024 Alumni Reunion will bring together even more graduates in global friendship.

“We can’t wait to welcome them home,” says Hallis.

$5K-20K scholarships are available for qualifying Canadian students. Visit Bodwell’s website at www.bodwell.edu for more information.

Sunflower Early Learning Society

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Photo via Sunflower Early Learning Society

​Inspired by the Reggio Emilia approach to preschool education, Sunflower Early Learning Society designs their early learning curriculum and environment around the evolving interests and curiosities of the preschool-aged children they support. Located in North Vancouver’s Pemberton Heights, the non-profit preschool is dedicated to providing an enriching and inclusive early education experience.

Sunflower’s emphasis on outdoor activities, classroom exploration, outdoor activities, special outings, weekly art classes, and group time, contributes to a thriving environment where children are actively involved in shaping their educational journey. True to its commitment to providing a holistic and immersive learning environment, Sunflower also boasts an extraordinary garden playspace that stimulates the senses and fosters a deep connection with the natural world.

At the heart of Sunflower's uniqueness lies an unwavering appreciation for children's abilities to engage in meaningful work, have diverse perspectives, explore their sense of wonder and act on their capacity for play.

Sunflower preschool students have a chance of gaining entry into Before and Afterschool Care at Sunflower Early Learning Society once they progress onto Capilano Elementary.

Registration for Sunflower Preschool opens on February 12. For a copy of the application form, email director@sunflowerschool.ca. For more info, visit www.sunflowerearlylearningsociety.ca.

Brentwood College School​

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Photo via Brentwood College School

Located on the picturesque Vancouver Island coastline, Brentwood College School is a progressive, co-educational boarding school committed to nurturing student success at every level. With a focus on academic excellence and a supportive learning environment, Brentwood offers a modern, West Coast atmosphere where students are encouraged to be globally-minded and empowered to make choices that shape their educational journey.

Central to Brentwood's philosophy is an unwavering commitment to student success, facilitated by a dedicated academic support system designed to help students fulfill their potential. Through devoted study blocks and personalized assistance from both teaching staff and peer tutors, students receive the guidance they need to excel academically and develop valuable leadership skills. Every student is guided by the core values of Grit and Joy, whether they are the learner or the leader in a given situation. This emphasis on character development fosters a culture of excellence throughout the school community. Brentwood also offers Advanced Placement (AP) courses, providing students with opportunities for rigorous academic challenges and a distinct advantage for higher education.

Reserve your spot for an upcoming Virtual Open House to learn more about Brentwood College School, happening on Apr. 2 at 4 p.m. PST and Apr. 3 at 9 a.m. PST. You can also book an appointment to meet their Admissions Director in person during his Vancouver visit on Feb. 23-24 by emailing clayton.johnston@brentwood.ca. Don't miss out on this chance to discover all that Brentwood has to offer!

Island Pacific School

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Photo via Island Pacific School

Learning to make a difference is the motto at Island Pacific School (IPS).

Located on Nex̱wlélex̱m (Bowen Island), the non-profit independent middle school (Grades 6 to 9) offers the International Baccalaureate (IB) Middle Years Programme for an education that challenges students to become the very best of who they are.

Small by design, Island Pacific School enrolls up to 72 students in 4 classes of 18 students each year, allowing for personalized instruction that exceeds the needs of middle school students and sets them up for academic excellence.

Almost half of the Island Pacific School (IPS) student body lives on the North Shore and commutes to the small island community daily. Families of prospective students are invited to meet the IPS team, ask questions about the school and learn more about the IB Middle Years Programme by attending the school’s community events in the North Shore throughout the months of February and March, including the IPS Science Fair and Open House on February 14 on Bowen Island, and the Get to Know IPS Info Session Night at Doc Morgan’s on Bowen Island on Feb. 22 and at Delbrook Community Centre on Mar. 7 from 6:30 p.m. - 7:30 p.m. 

For more information on these and all upcoming events in February and March, including the school’s monthly drop in coffee socials at Delany’s in Edgemont Village on the 2nd Wednesday of every month at 8:30am, visit www.islandpacific.org/upcomingevents.

Cousteau French International School

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Photo via Cousteau, the French International School

Cousteau, the French International School, offers bilingual education from Pre-K (age 2.5) to Grade 9, welcoming students regardless of their previous exposure to the French language up to age 5.

Instructed in both the French Ministry of Education curriculum and the British Columbia Ministry of Education curriculum, Cousteau offers a unique education that is the best of both French and in English systems, giving students a rigorous yet enjoyable learning experience.

The French International School’s multicultural student body of 250 students is representative of over 30 nationalities. Cousteau provides personalized attention to students’ progress through small group classes with an average of 14 students per class, ensuring tailored support for each pupil within an environment conducive to academic and personal growth.

As the first Eco-School in Canada, Cousteau fulfills more than 30 eco-actions, including nature classes, waste management activities, protection of biodiversity projects, and community actions, as initiated by the student eco-committee.

Cousteau’s extensive network of educational partners, comprising 600 French International schools worldwide, fosters international collaboration and equips students with the skills and knowledge to seamlessly pursue their education anywhere in the world.

For more information, visit www.cousteauschool.org.

Brockton School

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Photo via Brockton School

Brockton School is a place where every student matters, every family matters, community matters, and learning for life matters. A highly regarded International Baccalaureate school offering all four IB programmes, Brockton provides an exceptional education to students from Junior Kindergarten (age 4) to Grade 12 as well as an engaging Alumni program thereafter. 

Known for its authentic, warm, and welcoming atmosphere, the school boasts an outstanding staff-to-student ratio, fostering authentic connections that support students in their learning and overall well-being. Community is paramount, with student leadership, cross-grade collaboration, and parent engagement all part of daily school life.

Additionally, Brockton offers robust and innovative academic programming with a focus on holistic development, preparing students for present challenges and future endeavors. The curriculum encourages self-awareness, purpose-driven learning, and personal goal pursuit, complemented by leading extracurricular, outdoor education, music, arts, and student leadership opportunities.

Students are instilled with the values of engaged citizenship, inside and outside the classroom. Graduates excel in their chosen post-secondary paths, whether locally or globally, supported by a strong alumni network. 

In 2024, Brockton School proudly celebrates 20 years of inspiring the growth of outstanding humans. To learn more, visit brocktonschool.com.

North Star Montessori Elementary School​

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Photo via North Star Montessori Elementary School

Through the Montessori education model, the dedicated and experienced teachers at North Star nurture the various social, academic, and developmental needs of each student in an exciting and engaging way. 

North Star Montessori Elementary School is the only school on the North Shore offering an authentic Montessori preschool, kindergarten and elementary program. The school also offers BC’s first Parent-Infant & Toddler program for children between two months and three years old, which is the most important period in children’s educational and emotional development.

Parents are drawn to North Star for its nurturing environment and commitment to academic development. The school’s curriculum surpasses B.C. grade-level standards, with specialized programs in French, Music, Physical Education, Arts, and STEM. The curriculum is proficiency based and the school maintains a non-competitive atmosphere without traditional testing. Montessori education at North Star is also enhanced through experiential learning experiences such as outdoor classes and field trips. 

North Star is known for its individualized approach to education and its ability to ignite a deep love of learning, independence, and respect in all its students. Students are seen as individual learners, and lessons are planned according to their own unique needs and learning styles. 

The collaborative nature of student relationships across the ages in North Star’s mixed-age classrooms provide inspiration and motivation to younger students, along with leadership opportunities with reinforcement of knowledge for older students. This mutually beneficial relationship more closely reflects the social dynamics outside of school.

Through a Montessori education at North Star, students will develop into well-rounded individuals, prepared for lifelong success with creativity, curiosity, and critical thinking skills which they carry with them throughout their lives. For more information, visit www.northstarmontessori.ca.