by Andrew Halls Head Master King’s College School Wimbledon
It is a great privilege for me to be here talking about what I hope will be a beautiful and transformational addition to this great city’s educational landscape. King’s College School, Bangkok, due to open next year, is born of a noble parentage. When we met the Founding Team, we knew that we had found a very special group of partners. Special because we so quickly became friends, and so quickly knew we could trust each other. But special because we knew we cared about one thing more than anything else. We cared about the values by which good people live their lives, and how we can help children, wherever we have influence, develop good character. King’s College School is in many ways a very traditional school. We believe in good manners, courtesy and kindness. We are, it is true, the number one boys’ or co-ed school in the UK, according to The Sunday Times.
This is proof of the total commitment our teachers have to bringing the best out of every child. It is the reason that at King’s,we achieve the best results in the world for the International Baccalaureate for the size of cohort we teach every year, and it is why over 300 boys and girls have won places to Oxford and Cambridge Universities in the last six years. In fact, over 90% of our pupils go to their first choice university, and this is invariably one of the leading universities of the world – whether Oxbridge, Harvard, or top UK universities such as Imperial or the London School of Economics. But these academic successes are not what makes me most proud as the person who has been a headmaster for over twenty years.
I am proud that we help our children to believe that although their aspirations and successes matter – the feelings and hopes of everyone around them… these matter even more!
This is why we led a national drive in the UK to place empathy in the front and centre of all we do. Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of other people – not just to care about yourself. In many ways, it links with the great Thai virtue of Kreng Jai.That reminds me to say, all of us at King’s are especially excited about setting up this great new school in Bangkok because we feel we have so much to learn from Thai culture, Thai people – and Thai children.
We hope that by setting up King’s College School, Bangkok, we can fuse two great cultures – British and Thai – and demonstrate to other nations in the 21st century that – yes – academic skill, knowledge, scholarship, technical understanding, outstanding achievement – these are all part of what we must provide – but there is another set of values without which no success is worthwhile. The ability to respect other people, to want the best for them, not just for yourself, and to help others fulfil their qualities through the courtesy and respect you show them yourself.
That is what I want King’s Bangkok to achieve. I want it to reflect the impeccable manners and sweetness of character I have seen in our Thai partners and at the same time to reproduce the friendly, full-hearted, serious-minded aspirations I am proud of my school achieving in London. We will share the skills we have – the academic success that has made us the top boys’ or co-ed school in the UK, the advice and support that gets our pupils to top universities. But we also want to make sure King’s Bangkok has the same pastoral care for which King’s is renowned. We have a house system which makes every child feel part of a family within the larger community of the school. And of course we also place great emphasis on the world beyond the classroom – sport, music, drama, clubs and charity work. All of these things help a King’s child to become a fully formed, creative, curious and flexible future member of society.
Just like our partners in XET, we have extremely high ambitions for this new school. We want to provide the best possible education to Thai children – world-beating and strong, but based on the virtues of kindness, respect, hard work, aspiration and courtesy. But there is something I don’t want King’s Bangkok to be. I don’t want it to be just another franchise school. I don’t want it to have our name over the door, but not share our values. I don’t want it to have our name over the door, and yet its staff and children feel King’s in London is far away and disconnected. Everyone at King’s Bangkok will feel our presence. The headmaster is one of the most talented men I have ever worked with – and it has been my joy as a headmaster to appoint Mr Banyard to King’s in the UK six years ago as head of Physics and then a member of the senior management team, before seeing him take on senior responsibilities at King’s Hangzhou in China – and now headmaster of King’s Bangkok.
He is a fantastic choice for this school, not least because from working with him I know his first concern will be the children, and he will allow no detail to go unchecked in ensuring their success and wellbeing. We will be part of the governing body. King’s will play an active part in key staff appointments and training, and we will also conduct quality audits to help ensure the highest standards but also to ensure King’s in London is working side by side with its new twin in Bangkok. We will ensure the curriculum brings the best across from King’s UK, whilst also ensuring every child receives a worthy Thai education, respectful of the great culture that underpins this country – like my own, a monarchy proud of its independence over the years. Thank you once again to our partners for their faith both in King’s and in me, as a headmaster who wants to see this school become a leader among all the schools of Asia.