Insights from Founding Head and Headmaster Thomas Banyard.
Undeterred by the changing landscape of education this year, King’s College International School Bangkok opened its doors in September to over 300 students from Nursery to Year Six, with plans to open Years Seven to Ten by 2021. Affiliated with and in close partnership with King’s College School, Wimbledon, renowned as one of the world’ most academically-successful schools, the institution aims to bring the same ethos of academic and personal excellence to their campus in Bangkok.
“Here, we are creating a culture where children can follow their interests and be the person they wish to become,” Thomas Banyard, the school’s Founding Head and Headmaster, explains. “Our ultimate goal is to build great hearts, and not just to develop great minds.” Born in England, Thomas did both his undergraduate degree in Physics and teaching qualification (PGCE) at Oxford University, where he received first-class honours in the former. A teaching alum of King’s Wimbledon, where he was Head of Physics; as well as RDFZ King’s College School Hangzhou, China, where he was the Head of the co-curriculum programme and Head of the international school; Thomas has a deep and studied familiarity with King’s core values and educational style. He brings to bear his years of experience to help develop King’s Bangkok to the same level of success as its sister schools abroad.
Masala sat down with Thomas to ask him about the school’s unique vision and facilities, as well as the ways they nurture their students towards doing and feeling their best.
What led you to found King’s College in Thailand?
Once I began work at King’s Wimbledon, I knew that I was part of a special school. The reason we’re one of the most academically-successful schools worldwide is that we educate the whole child.
I feel very lucky to be part of the King’s Wimbledon overseas school community, and it is this education that I want for my two daughters. The chance to build this school; to build a kind and happy community and in one of the best cities in the world, is my dream job.
Tell us a little more about King’s Bangkok’s affiliation with King’s College, Wimbledon.
In the words of Headmaster Andrew Halls, OBE, King’s Wimbledon is “much more than the name above the door. We are the heart beating inside the school.” Their invaluable help in adapting the curriculum, co-curricular programme, and pastoral care give parents the peace of mind to know that we can become one of the best schools in the region.
Many of our staff and gap year students who work with us are alumni of King’s Wimbledon, and, in addition, our uniform, house system, curriculum, policies, and even the colour of the school’s red bricks are based on King’s College School Wimbledon. However, there are differences unique to King’s Bangkok. For example, we’ve included the addition of Thai studies and Mandarin into our adapted King’s College curriculum.
What is the school’s overall vision for the education of its students?
It’s always been clear: we are going to be one of the best schools in Asia, placing student wellbeing and happiness at the centre of everything we do. We wish to teach all members of our community that success can only be achieved by being kind to ourselves and others. The three pillars of our school are: academic excellence, the co-curricular programme, and pastoral care. All three are needed to develop the whole child – exam success by itself is not good enough.
We have a strong emphasis on values, and this permeates everything we do. Here, good manners, kindness, and wisdom are just as important as Maths, English and Science.
How do these values help in your students’ future professional and general development?
Whatever our students do, we know they will need the key values of creativity, empathy, kindness and teamwork. This produces a very special type of young person who values everyone around them and has the soft skills needed to be successful in their careers, and more importantly, make a positive difference to their communities.
King’s Wimbledon is famous for giving its students world-class careers advice and around 25% of their graduates attend Oxford or Cambridge each year, with many going on to Ivy League universities in America. To that end, King’s Wimbledon will work with us to adapt their careers advice, and help our students to attend the best universities around the world.
What makes King’s Bangkok’s campus unique?
We are very proud of our campus and have built it to meet the needs of our students. All our classrooms, our sports hall, and even our multipurpose function space are air-filtered to make them safe in times of high PM2.5 levels. We will also work with a leading partner to monitor the AQI levels and communicate this with parents.
Other features that we are proud of include a wide variety of sports facilities for our children’s optimal social and physical development, such as an Olympic-size swimming pool; and an air-conditioned sports centre housing three full-size basketball courts; to name a few. We’re also dedicated to the arts, with a 600-seat auditorium and a 150-seat concert hall, a cooking room, dance studio, and music practice rooms; as well as the STEM fields, with four science labs and a robotics lab.
What co-curricular activities does your school offer to encourage your students’ pursuits of more than just the academic?
The co-curricular programme is one of the central pillars of our education. It involves extra-curricular activities (ECAs) which are optional activities after school; co-curricular activities (CCAs) which are a compulsory rotation of activities built into the timetable, encouraging children to try new things and find new interests; and we also have clubs and societies for extra activities during lunchtimes. We encourage all students to take part, and this is a key part of our education.
Our CCAs include sporting, creative and academic activities. The majority are run by our teachers, but we also work with trusted external providers to give a varied programme. Some examples are football, handball, cricket, swimming, Thai manners, Thai dance, French, a science and inventions club, and a ukulele club. For example, I know that two of the highlights of my daughter’s week are her singing class with our deputy head of pre-prep, and her cooking class where she gets to eat whatever it is she makes.
What do you look for when hiring teachers?
We know that teacher turnover is a big problem in some international schools and so we target people who have shown commitment through their careers, or who join us with their children. We also look for experience in highly-achieving UK or international schools and a commitment to pastoral care and co-curricular activities.
We have three rounds of recruitment. Initially, we look for people who model our values of good manners, kindness and wisdom. Then we look at the way teachers plan their lessons to ensure that they share our vision to inspire, engage and extend our students. Then the teachers have a final interview with a senior leader at King’s College School, Wimbledon to show our close partnership and ensure the teaching quality is as high as it can possibly be.
Many Thai-Indian students have joined the school. What aspect of King’s College do you believe may be uniquely attractive to families from the Thai-Indian community?
King’s Bangkok is not just a school – we are a community, and we are a community centred around kindness. As a parent of two daughters who are proud to be part of King’s Bangkok, I have only one concern: I want them to be happy. I believe all parents regardless of background want the same.
One of the key factors is pastoral care, which is a focus on the students’ wellbeing. We spend a great deal of time interviewing teaching candidates to find out nurturing people who love being with children. My one piece of advice: choose the school that fits your family. Do the values of King’s Bangkok match your values as a family? Do you like the people you meet at the school and do you think they would be good role models for your children? For those who’ve already joined us, they’ve answered these questions. It’s clear to see that they are enjoying the journey we started together at King’s Bangkok.