Expat Life went to visit King’s Bangkok last week and spoke to their Headmaster, Thomas Banyard, and Helen Searle who will lead the Pre-prep when they open in August for students aged 2-11 years old. They have already started work on admissions for Years 7-9 who will join the school from August 2021. In fact, they were incredibly happy to confirm that Matthew Gibson, one of the most popular teachers among students at King’s Wimbledon, will be joining and leading the senior school. Matthew is currently a leader at King’s Wimbledon responsible for preparing the students to get into the world’s best universities, as he has been doing at King’s Wimbledon since 2011.
I arrived just after midday on Friday, July 3rd and the school was a hive of activity. There were dozens of contractors on site who were putting the finishing touches to the grounds sitting on 23 rai of land in the prestigious Rama III area of Bangkok: completing the FIFA standard playing fields in the centre of the school and finishing the driveway with granite to allow parents to drop off directly outside the school turnstiles.
I parked and walked to the impressive centre concourse that opens up the King’s complex and walked into the reception with the receptionists already in place getting everything in order. The headmaster arrived at the reception behind a face mask with a Thai couple with their little boy, a new student at King’s. Thomas smiled a confident and relaxed smile, entered the reception with his guests, and said hello to me. I will be with you soon, he said.
We sat down in a meeting room off the reception. He looked every bit the Headmaster of a top British public school. White shirt, red tie, and blue suit trousers. He welcomed me just as he had the 150 parent tours that he had completed over the past week. He told me that the parents have all been very enthusiastic to see the school. He also said that they were all lovely people, “We are very lucky. You do not get that at every school”.
I asked the Headmaster what was going to make King’s Bangkok different to the other 200 international schools in Thailand and if I was a parent why would I choose King’s Bangkok.
He and Mrs. Searle both answered the question separately in exactly the same way. They said that King’s Bangkok would concentrate on a broad education which builds a ‘great heart’ just as much as a ‘great mind’. Kindness, good manners, and wisdom with the underlying hard work, aspiration and courtesy were the solid foundations that the school would be based on. They want to produce well-rounded, balanced students, who will have inquisitive minds, live their ways happily, and give back to their societies when they grow older.
They want parents to come and visit the school because they feel confident that they will like what they see. “There will be no hard sell,” Thomas said, “our team will all impart the same message. From the teachers to the receptionists, the cleaners, everyone has been recruited to be of the same mind. To go out of their way to be well- mannered and be as helpful as they can, both to each other, our students and our guests”. I found it a charming ethos. “If you go to the reception and ask for the Early Years Centre, we expect the receptionist to get up and take you there. Not just direct you”.
They want parents to know that the school is going to support their child to be a good person. “Whether they have the best music teacher in the country or a world level badminton coach is not important. If they are not kind and considerate people, and they come home and expect someone else to carry their bags or to clear up after them, that is not what we want. What we do here is try to encourage our children to be well-mannered and thoughtful in all respects.
Kindness is vital for students to be successful here: we are kind to the cleaners by not leaving rubbish everywhere; we are kind to our teachers because we respect what they say; we are kind to our friends because we look out for them and offer support if they need help. We are going to speak English because there are people in our group that will not understand us if we speak Thai, so we will involve them in our conversation. Kindness underpins everything that we do”.
Through developing kind students who have a range of interests and hobbies, Thomas and Helen told me that King’s Bangkok will naturally prepare the students for the best universities around the world. At King’s Wimbledon they are proud that 90% of the students get their first-choice university wherever that is in the world. Emulating this is something that they are excited to do through careers guidance beginning in Year 9 of the senior school.
“The issue that we face is that we do not have alumni yet. We do have alumni from King’s Wimbledon and we understand that our parents want to see their children come through us and then go to university. However, we are not rushing. We could have opened more year groups, but we feel that the longer we have our students the better. Instead of opening all the year groups and going straight to GCSEs and A levels, we have gone for Year 7, 8 and 9 which is basically the lowest number of years you can get to make the senior school work with friendship groups and leadership opportunities. This does mean that we will take longer to get our first sets of GCSE and A level results, and the first set of students getting into top universities, but we are lucky to have so many parents that trust the expertise of King’s Wimbledon. With both the Headmaster and the leader of the senior school coming from the sister campus in London, many parents feel assured that their sons and daughters will be in good hands with King’s Bangkok.”
When I left King’s Bangkok the staff all smiled at me and wished me well. I do believe that Thomas and Helen have already laid strong foundations for establishing a kind and happy community fully supported by King’s College School, Wimbledon. It will be an exciting few years for the team here as they welcome families to join them and I look forward to seeing the school flourish for years to come.