Karl Gross, Director of Overseas Schools
King’s College School, Wimbledon, one of the academically most successful schools in the world, is partnering with investors for new school projects internationally. King’s first two international sister schools in Wuxi and Hangzhou, China, opened in 2018. King’s College International School, Bangkok, the latest addition to the King’s family of schools, opened in August 2020. More international partnerships are planned. Karl Gross, Director of Overseas Schools, explains how King’s College School, Wimbledon, has made the move into the international arena:
About five years ago we were approached by Chinese education provider Dipont Education to partner for school projects in China. King’s has always been an outward-looking school and our governing body felt an international school partnership would benefit the entire King’s community, providing opportunities for our students and staff to engage and collaborate with their peers at sister schools overseas. In addition, and importantly, income generated from these partnerships would support the ambition of significantly widening the provision for bursaries at King’s.
What stood out to us about Dipont’s proposal was its visionary proposition of partnering with, and delivering, the best of education from the east and west. To achieve this, Dipont was looking to bring together a leading British school (King’s College School, Wimbledon), and Chinese schools of the highest calibre for each school project. In Hangzhou, our Chinese partner school is the High School Affiliated to Renmin University (RDFZ) and in Wuxi we partner with Nanjing Foreign Language School (Nanwai).
These unique partnerships enable RDFZ King’s College School, Hangzhou and Nanwai King’s College School, Wuxi to follow a bold approach: expatriate and Chinese students study together in the Kindergarten, and it has been amazing to see the pace of language acquisition of both Chinese and English in the Early Years programme. From grades 1 to 9, Chinese nationals attend the bilingual school section on the campus, and expatriate students attend the international section. All students come back together in the senior high school where they study for A levels; we are also planning to offer the IB Diploma in the near future.
The whole campus shares the same philosophy, based on the ethos of King’s in Wimbledon. The emphasis is on developing a love of learning, an inquisitive mindset and stimulating teaching. The curriculum is balanced, with a real focus on holistic education. Over 100 different co-curricular activities are on offer, and the pastoral care is central to the educational offering. Each school has also adopted our house system – even down to the names.
This unique school structure allows for wonderful inter-cultural links on one campus. Chinese and international students have numerous opportunities to connect and constantly learn from each other, bringing together both worlds. We know this is important; most of our students will go on to study internationally and the experiences at both schools offer great preparation for a globalised world and foster understanding of different cultures and interaction. Many of them will return as skilled leaders and entrepreneurs to their home country.
This ground-breaking educational concept has attracted parents in huge numbers – Nanwai King’s College School, Wuxi and RDFZ King’s College School, Hangzhou received around 3,000 applications each and both schools opened in September 2018 with around 800 students. The demand for places at both schools has remained incredibly strong and now, in their second year, each school has around 1,350 students.
We are also seeing the first of many exciting opportunities for student and staff collaboration take shape: students in one house at King’s produced a video for their counterparts in the same house in Wuxi and Hangzhou, Chinese students have contributed to student-led magazines at King’s in Wimbledon, our alumni have new gap year opportunities and inaugural student exchanges are taking place this year. In addition, top scholars in the senior high school of our sister schools overseas will spend time at King’s, attending lessons and working with our UCAS team and university counsellors. Further forms of collaboration such as sports, music and drama tours and Olympiads are planned.
Staff also have the opportunity to spend time at the different schools, enabling them to share best practice and learn from each other. As the number of schools grows, there will also be an increase in the number of opportunities for professional development and career progression within the family of King’s schools. Staff at King’s in Wimbledon are also benefiting from our overseas partnerships. For instance, we offer teachers the opportunity to spend up to two years at one of our overseas sister schools, with the option to resume their roles at King’s upon their return. This is very exciting for our staff and offers them fantastic new experiences. It also deepens the links between the schools and supports the transfer of the King’s ethos.
Developing the King’s College School, Wimbledon, brand
King’s reputation as one of the highest performing schools in the world and our experience in international partnerships is generating interest from a growing number of investors globally. They are impressed by our academic credentials, such as our IB average of 41.5 points over the last five years or the fact that almost 300 of our students have gone to Oxford and Cambridge universities in the last six years. However, they also quickly realise that academic excellence is achieved in an environment that is based on a holistic education and an outstanding pastoral care system, designed for our students to become collaborative, confident, creative and independent young people.
Finding the right partner
The selection process to find a suitable partner is very important and requires significant time and due diligence; understanding the potential investor as well as the market they are operating in is crucial. We have been working closely with ISC Research to support us in this process. ISC’s international network has been incredibly valuable and it was instrumental in finding the right partner for the third overseas schools project of King’s: Thai-based company XET.
King’s College International School, Bangkok
Everyone at King’s was immediately impressed by the people behind XET, their values and their vision to bring the best possible education to Thailand. We were extremely attracted by XET’s ambition to replicate King’s very closely and signed an agreement in September 2018 to open a school in Bangkok.
King’s College International School Bangkok has an enviable, central location and will open its doors to local and expatriate students in August 2020; at capacity the school will have 1,500 students aged 2 to 18. Parents appear to be genuinely excited about this new school, and admissions numbers have been incredibly strong, with King’s Bangkok on course to have one of the highest student numbers of any international school opening in Thailand in the last few years.
Our ambition is to grow the King’s family of schools further and the interest from new potential investors and, increasingly from existing schools, has been very strong. We are also constantly looking for new innovative ways of working with our sister schools. Offering opportunities to our students and staff to engage with and learn from each other builds bridges between different cultures and fosters empathy, tolerance and friendship; something that is much needed in today’s world.
Karl Gross is Director of Overseas Schools at King’s College School Wimbledon. You can find out more about the schools at https://www.kcs.org.uk/the-kings-community/overseas-schools