The Canterbury School of Gran Canaria have a very proud tradition of teaching their students community-values and social awareness.  This year, ahead of World Child Cancer Awareness Day, February 15, the pupils of this prestigious British educational institution have been raising funds for the Canary Islands charity Pequeño Valiente, the Brave Little One.

 


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Now an extraordinarily effervescent nonagenarian, a lifelong teacher, who to this day embodies boundless guile and energy, Beryl Pritchard, first landed on Gran Canaria in 1971. She felt there could be better early years provision for infants and founded the Canterbury School of Gran Canaria dedicating herself to a remarkable vision of bilingual and bicultural educational advancements for the Canary Islands.  Now Honorary Principal of the Canterbury School, Beryl began with a small kindergarten of just seventeen pupils, working out of a chalet in the famous British Merchant District of Ciudad Jardín, an affluent neighbourhood in the capital developed in the 1920s around the famous English “Garden City” concept, in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria.

Honorary Head and Founder, Beryl Pritchard

Historically, Ciudad Jardín has been home to some of the city’s most important families and individuals, including merchants, professionals, and many of “The British Colony” expatriates who have for at least two centuries held varied business interests in the Canary Islands, and who collectively built the still thriving Puerto de La Luz, to supersede the original port of Las Palmas (at San Telmo). Today, Canterbury School boasts more than a thousand students, over three sites, with eighty qualified teachers, and provides quality British education through a stimulating 21st-century curriculum, from infants, through primary and secondary level and on to Sixth Form studies preparing students for access to some of the best universities in the world.

Canterbury School Maspalomas, has just celebrated its 20th anniversary having been founded in 2003, and has been working hard, as part of the school’s core value system, to teach the pupils about respect and the importance of supporting their local community. Their “Number Day” celebrations, celebrating mathematics, included the children learning about the significance of Maths in everyday life. This then inspired the staff there to create their own unique fundraising experience for one of the school’s favourite children’s charities; Pequeno Valiente. They launched an auction, they called ‘Name your Prize’, using an interactive online platform, to raise money and support for children and families who certainly need a little extra helping hand, provided by the charitable association to kids diagnosed with various types of medical conditions and cancer-related illnesses. They were well supported, receiving many generous donations from local businesses and parents from the school.

Last year Canterbury pupils enjoyed the amazing experience of studying one of Gran Canaria’s most beloved local artists and professor at the Luján Pérez School of Art, Octavio Del Toro. The children were so inspired by his unique Canarian style they created some of their own artwork which the artist loved. This was the beginning of a great relationship with this inspiring local artist. He kindly created and donated a one-off piece of art for their auction, which helped motivate the staff and pupils still further. The school have been very proud to have such a great relationship with Octavio Del Toro and were super excited to get the opportunity to meet him in person. The artist presented his artwork to the auction winner and met with the pupils who helped to create the initiative. The whole school community have been highly motivated and managed to secure generously pledged amounts of money, to win the incredible prizes that were offered, to raise as much money as possible for this important, long-running charity on the Canary Islands.

Following a pupil’s suggestion, the school decided to include a raffle in their fundraising effort so that they could raise even more money. They received a very generous donation from a local hotelier; Bohemia Suites, who offered a night’s stay in their luxury hotel. The children eagerly sold as many tickets as they could to their family and friends.  Canterbury Maspalomas have said they are immensely proud and grateful for the support and generosity shown by the wider school community. The Canterbury children have also learnt that by working together they can make a real difference in the world.

In a special assembly, led by the energetic acting head, Kirsty Mall, assisted from among the teaching staff present by Amy Rebecca and Katy Pearce, and attended by Pamela Ainsworth, head of Infants, the San Bartolomé de Tirajana’s second deputy mayor and town councillor for youth and education Elena Álamo, education councillor Esher Delgado and Family, Solidarity and Citizen Participation councillor Dimas de la Cruz Sarmiento, the children displayed their artworks, sang and gave a group presentation about the importance of good mental health, kindness and always helping people feel safe and more comfortable, especially when you don’t know what life challenges they or their family may face.

Miss Gabriela Villalva, 10, won the auction for the painting “Bejeque”

Miss Gabriela Villalva, a 10-year-old fifth-grade student at the school, won the auction for the painting “Bejeque” (acrylic on wood) after offering the highest bid in a silent auction; €172 that she had managed to save up herself.

“Since she was very little,” said her proud father at the event “she has always shown herself to be a very sentimental and supportive girl who loves the arts.” In fact, she received drawing and painting classes for four years at the Municipal Art School, with the painter Francisco Guillén. “She wants to be an archaeologist,” her father added.

The final total donation collected was then given to the vice president of “Pequeno ValienteEsther Montserrat Sánchez, in a cheque for €4003 to mark World Child Cancer Day, thanking the Canterbury Maspalomas school for the initiative. “This work that they have carried out with the collaboration of the municipality’s companies is admirable. Thank you with all my heart for so much solidarity and empathy. With this money we can do many things, and can fulfil many childhood dreams,” she said referencing the boys and girls sick with cancer and their families, who receive care through the Foundation’s volunteer work.

The Canterbury School’s vision, following the altruistic lead of their founder Ms Pritchard, is to create a united educational community that inspires all members to make a difference, fostering a culture of self-confidence, challenge, and respect for others. Its mission is to provide quality British education to all students through a stimulating educational project that promotes high standards, progress, and equal opportunities. The Canterbury School aims to enable students to become independent and autonomous learners through interdisciplinary studies in a stimulating, tolerant, and multicultural environment.

Canterbury School is committed to offering a bilingual environment where students can develop their full potential in all educational areas, following the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) in the Infant years and the English National Curriculum in the Primary years, both adapted to their geographical location. This includes a strong emphasis on English immersion, with a significant focus on learning Spanish language and literature and about Canarian culture, as well as the study of a third language from the age of 11, preparing students to become global citizens of the future. The school’s educational policy is built on the principles of developing the full potential of students, promoting understanding of art, music, and literature, and fostering the necessary social values of mutual respect and understanding.

Over the years, Canterbury School has been recognised for its academic excellence, including receiving prestigious awards from Cambridge International Examinations for achieving top results in the country. The school has also been highlighted among the 100 best schools in Spain by the Spanish language daily newspaper El Español for three consecutive years, with a special mention among the 30 most innovative schools in Spain. This recognition underscores the school’s leadership in educational innovation and its balanced program that combines sports and academics.

Canterbury School, under Beryl Pritchard’s founding vision, evolved from a small kindergarten to an international institution that embodies commitment to quality education, innovation, and the holistic development of its students. It stands as a beacon of British international education in the Canary Islands, preparing students not only for academic success but also to be informed, responsible, and active citizens of the future.

The British on Gran Canaria

The British influence on Gran Canaria, has been significant, including agriculture, shipping, export/import, industrial development and much more besides.  In the 19th century, wealthy Brits were sent to the island for their health, to reap the benefits of the year-round warm Spring climate.

Prior to the 1960s, all tourism to the island was based in the capital, mostly arriving by ship to Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, though with the development of hotels on the south of the island, and the increased air routes of the jet age, tourism became focused towards the hotter side of the island, previously deemed by the locals somewhat uninhabitable.  In 2023 more than 2.5 million British tourists visited Gran Canaria, representing around 35% of total tourism to this island alone.

The British influence is also reflected in the presence of various institutions such as the British Club of Las Palmas (1908) and the Anglican Holy Trinity Church (1891) among the many extraordinary enclaves built by the British immigrants who have made the island their home, with many of their names most prominent here; such as Miller, Pilcher, Leacock, Elder and Fyfe, to name but a few, not to mention the many famous visitors who have arrived on these shores (or attempted to) since at least the 16th century.

Now the British come in many guises, from sun-seeking retirees dotted across the island, to the bar owners and excursion providers of the sunny south, to cruise ship passengers in the capital and the modern-day Digital Nomads, working from laptops in their work hubs spread over various idyllic settings, it is safe to say the Canarians have embraced many elements of British culture, as much as the Brits themselves have become ensconced among the hotels, beaches, guest houses and mountain retreats offered under year-round sunshine.

In 2018 Canterbury School took over a famous building, Milton House, in the Ciudad Jardín neighbourhood where Beryl first began, and opened a prestigious new educational centre focused on infants and primary-level students in the capital.

There are to this day several “English” international schools, including the British School and Oakley, among others. Beryl’s school grew, through hard work, commitment and sheer force of personality, from quite humble beginnings into one of the largest, and most well-respected institutions of its kind, recognised among the very best educational centres in the Canary Islands and Spain.

Elena Álamo Vega highlighted “the supportive and kind nature of this surprising and admirable initiative, in which some very young children have offered to help other children who are going through very complex and difficult personal and family situations as they face cancer disease. The event has been very emotional and its objective a true life lesson,” she said at the end of the event. The students and teachers of the school sang the famous song ‘We are the World’ in chorus and, of course, in perfect English.

Their hard work and commitment will, this World Children’s Cancer Awareness Day, support a charity that is dedicated to the brave young souls, and their families, who face one of the most daunting challenges anyone could have to meet, helping provide inspiration to overcome serious illness, and sunlight for innocents through darker times than they should be expected to overcome.

Thank you, Canterbury, thank you Beryl, staff and pupils of this proud Gran Canaria institution.

 

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