Expat Life had the opportunity to meet the incoming Principal of Rugby School Thailand (RST) Mr. Bruce Grindlay, who takes up his position on the 1st August 2021, over a Zoom call from his current school Sutton Valence School in the Garden of England in Kent.
He is naturally looking forward to taking up his position at Rugby School Thailand (RST) but has sadly been unable to visit Thailand over the last year, so has had ongoing Zoom calls with his colleagues and the School board.
I asked him why it was thought necessary for the School to appoint an overall Principal and he explained that due to the rapid growth that the now, three schools – Pre Prep, Prep and Senior, student numbers will be up to over 900 when they return in September. It was decided by the board to appoint an overall Principal to continue the drive to the target occupancy of 1,400 students and to create consistency across every child’s educational journey at Rugby School Thailand (RST). It will also allow the School to work towards its vision to be a truly British boarding school in Asia focused on educating the whole person. In the first year, Mr. Grindlay will also take responsibility for the Senior School as Mr. Alan Ball has now returned to Australia. After a year Rugby School Thailand (RST) will appoint a Head of Senior School allowing Bruce to focus on more strategic developments.
Coming into the role will allow the Teepsuwan family to take a step back and look after other projects at Wisdom Park and take on a more non-executive, governance role.
Its 80 acre campus (190 rai) is approximately 110km (68 miles) from Bangkok and 20km (12 miles) outside Pattaya. Rugby School Thailand (RST) offers a British curriculum to both Thai and international students. It opened in September 2017, the Prep and Pre-Prep school opened for Pre-Nursery (2 year olds) up to Year 6 (10/11 year olds). Years 7-13 opened in September 2018. Tuition fees range from 439,900 – 827,400B per year. Boarding fees are 364,300B per annum for weekly boarding and 435,000B per annum for full boarding.
Mr. Grindlay was born in 1967 and is a renowned British organist, chorister, conductor, teacher and experienced Headmaster with the full complement of skills to drive the School forward. His specialist subject of Music shows Rugby School Thailand (RST)‘s desire to deliver its ethos: “The whole person; the whole point”. They want their students to be highly successful in all the academic subjects, but also to develop their characters and vital soft skills through sports, culture, creativity and the arts. He repeated the words that I had heard from Nigel Westlake that ‘he intended making Rugby School Thailand (RST) the best international school in Asia and one of the best boarding schools in the world’.
He believes in the boarding concept and is a fan of weekly boarding where the children are dropped off at School on a Sunday evening and collected or driven home on Friday to spend time with the family. Boarding creates the time and space for so much to take place outside of the classroom whether that be academic enrichment and support or activities, sport, drama, design or any number of clubs. Weekly boarding really is the best of both worlds: weekends with the family but the working week packed full of opportunities at the School without time wasted on the daily commute.
Rugby School UK was founded in 1567 as a provision in the will of Lawrence Sheriff, who had made his fortune supplying groceries to Queen Elizabeth I of England. Established 454 years ago it has 16 Houses. It was one of the nine prestigious schools investigated by the Clarendon Commission of 1861 – 64 (the other schools being Eton, Charterhouse, Harrow, Shrewsbury, Westminster, Winchester and two day schools: St Paul’s and Merchant Taylors).
There is an impressive list of Rugby alumni in the ecclesiastical, armed forces, political and foreign service appointments and a former Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain.
Bruce’s father was an engineer in the paper industry and his mother was a chemistry teacher and he was educated at King’s College, Wimbledon in London. His father was then posted to Canada where he attended St. George’s School for Boys in Vancouver.
He met his wife, Lilla, when they were both at Cambridge and she is currently Head of English at The King’s School Canterbury and the author of an academic book, Queen of Heaven. They have two grown up children now finishing their studies in the UK.
After graduating from Emmanuel College, Cambridge he took a postgraduate degree and gained a Bachelor of Music at Cambridge University. He was Director of Chapel Music and a Boarding Housemaster at Bedford School between 1994 – 2001 before moving to Christ’s Hospital as Director of Music with a large music staff of 50 plus, the experience, he remarked, was “like running a school within a school”. In 2009 he moved to Sutton Valence as Headmaster where he has been for the last 12 years and had the experience of assisting in the creation of a sister school in China in 2017.
He sees his role at Rugby School Thailand (RST) to blend the history and heritage of a British public school with the excellent and state of the art facilities that the School has built in the wide open countryside of Chonburi. He sees the potential to deliver a world class and unique education and was drawn by the owning family’s commitment to education evinced through their investment in this remarkable School. I remarked that ‘whenever I visit it is not like an international school but it reminds me of an international convention centre or business premises – the facilities are just so impressive’.
He wants to develop students and staff and is driven by helping people achieve the very best that they can. He is keen to focus on skills acquisition and developing specific dispositions in the students so that they will compete in an ever widening global workplace. A workplace that will be heavily reliant on technology, but still needs the human skills of collaboration, communication, creativity and problem solving. These vital, uniquely human, transferrable skills are frequently learnt outside of the classroom and that is why the extended boarding day is so good at allowing these to flourish and develop.
Rugby School Thailand (RST) has recently achieved COBIS (Council of British International Schools) certification and in the process was given two Beacon status awards for its boarding provision and enrichment opportunities. An amazing achievement for a School that has only been in existence for four years.
The next chapter of Rugby School Thailand (RST)’s development is going to be an exciting time and certainly the energy and experience Bruce brings to this new role can only assist in moving this School to ever greater heights.