At Wellington, you’re part of a unique global family

Here, at Wellington College Bangkok, we don’t just talk about our association with our sister school in the UK, we actually live it every single day. The deep heritage of Wellington College runs right the way through our School, as does the pioneering teaching culture and the cultivation of strong relationships across the school community.

Deputy Head of Wellington College (UK), Iain Henderson, is one current example of this strong connection. Before flight restrictions were in place, Iain travelled to our School from the UK 17 times in 2 years to support our community directly in coaching of staff and parents, strengthening links between the two Wellington Schools. The global restrictions on travel have by no means thwarted Iain’s insatiable commitment and he joined us for four weeks in December 2020 after the requisite period in quarantine to deliver coaching and support to our staff and to meet with parents and students to tell them more about the unique opportunities Wellington Bangkok students have as being part of the global Wellington family. Having also founded the world-renowned golf programme at Wellington UK, Iain also found time to help coach our own golf team here on our home course, right next door to our campus.

Iain, can you tell us about the benefits to being part of the global Wellington community?

Where do I begin?!?

Firstly, it is about a genuine connection between the schools. Our aspirations for all of our schools are to be outstanding and to deliver a distinctive and inspiring education. The experience and expertise that can be shared around a closely connected family of schools is hugely useful if it is done in a way that reflects an appreciation of differing contexts.

Increasingly, as the age profile in each of the schools develops, there will be the opportunity for more extensive student links, projects and activities to happen. Wellington College in the UK (TWC), is a 13-18 school, while all of the schools internationally run all the way from age 2 or 3 to 18.

We run a Wellington College Summer School in July to which all Year 8 students are invited, to give them a chance to experience life at TWC. This ran for the first time in 2019, and for obvious reasons was postponed in 2020. We hope that we can run it in 2021, but if the global travel situation does not allow it, the current Year 8 students will still have the chance to go in 2022. Recently, Year 9 students from Wellington China have collaborated with their counterparts at Wellington UK to devise and carry out an extensive online project to compare and contrast different cultural perspectives.

Wellington College is a thought leader in education. Wherever there is a Wellington College, central to its culture will be a strong commitment to ongoing professional development and growth to ensure the very best teaching and learning occurs. Partly because of this, Wellington will attract some of the best, most motivated and inspiring teachers to apply when jobs become available. I am co-director of the Festival of Education at Wellington College, which is Europe’s largest education event of its type. In China, we already have started similar events associated with each school, and we aim to begin an equivalent festival in Bangkok soon.

Systems, policies and expertise can be transferable where appropriate, and the depth of collaboration between the schools enables this. Among other areas, TWC has a deservedly strong reputation for Pastoral Care, for Mental Health support and Safeguarding. To infuse UK best practice into the international schools provides a big advantage over simply complying with local regulations.

There are other ways in which close links are built:

  • The family of schools has a system of teacher collaborative exchanges:
    • No longer do we do traditional old-style exchanges of 1 month, 1 term or 1 year, where exchange partners swap simultaneously. This creates no lasting collaboration because they never meet.
    • Now, person A in one school partners with person B in another
    • A visits B, is hosted by B and they work together on planning, collaboration, teaching etc for perhaps 2-3 weeks
    • At another time, B visits A’s school and the same thing happens
    • A more intensive but more formative interaction, with the potential for lasting collaboration online
  • Incoming senior staff in Wellington schools have a period of induction at TWC. Chris Nicholls spent 3 weeks at TWC before beginning here in WCI Bangkok
  • There are collaborative networks of staff in similar or equivalent roles at each of the schools.
  • The Masters of all of the Wellington schools meet at least 3 times per year to further develop the collective and individual direction of our schools.

A further example would be the recent establishment of the scholarship programme in Wellington Bangkok. Learning from the 161 years of experience in TWC and linking the scholarship programmes together enables this to begin and to grow in a way that reflects in particular the value of integrity throughout the programme.

How do you transfer the unique culture of Wellington UK to Wellington Schools globally? Is this even possible?

It comes down to defining what makes Wellington unique. No single ingredient can be so, because all are shared by at least some other schools. But the overall combination does make for a unique recipe, and it needs to be distilled into, or summarised by, a culture, an ethos, a way of being – the Wellington DNA. This can then be used to grow a school which is sensitive to and congruent with, the local culture in the region. Hence, Wellington Bangkok is not a copy of Wellington UK, and neither are any of our schools exact copies. But they are all already distinctively and recognisably Wellington, and they will all be outstanding.

I am in my 28th year at Wellington now, and my current Deputy Head role is focused on building deep and enduring partnerships both locally and with our International Schools, and on Educational Developments. My wife Cressida and I came to Wellington together after 3 years teaching in other schools. She is now 2nd Master, i.e. the Senior Deputy Head, so between us, we ought to know and understand what really makes Wellington what it is, better than most.

As well as building collaboration between our schools, I am a Governor of Wellington College Bangkok. This means that I am here to support the Master, the Bursar, all of the leadership team, and the staff, to deliver the best and most authentic Wellington education possible. Sometimes, that involves using my own experience to suggest or advise, and sometimes it is about trying to pose the right questions to allow good decisions to be made.

Tell us more about the coaching and support you provide …

On one hand, this is about developing the skills of teachers to coach when appropriate. Coaching is about listening and asking questions to unlock potential, ownership and independence in people, rather than telling. It is one of a range of ways to help individuals and groups to improve. These range from very high levels of direction and input, to low:

Showing, demonstrating or modelling
“Now do it on your own”

All of these are valuable interventions at the right time, but none of them are valuable all the time. Of these, the hardest to learn is coaching, since it is slightly counter-intuitive to withhold our wisdom, experience and expertise, because that is what we are all used to doing. Yet if someone already knows the answer but you still tell them, you are deskilling them, trading their agency for your advice, and that is seldom a good idea.

We therefore developed a coaching training programme for teachers at Wellington which is growing right through our family of schools. We strongly believe, backed up by a robust research base, that learning to coach adds another important skill to teachers and leaders, to enable them more effectively to enable staff and students to grow. Part of my role is to deliver training, and to develop self-sufficient training capacity in each school.

We have also run courses for parents, to enable them to integrate coaching skills more into their daily lives.

Building on this, I can also be a source of personal and professional support to many members of staff at WCIB when I meet them individually. At any particular time, they may need me to adopt any one of the roles described above, from telling to coaching, and I endeavour to use the most appropriate.

Another area is in providing guidance for particular aspects of the school. To give just one example, I started the golf programme at Wellington, which I ran for 22 years up to 2016. In that time, aside from on just one occasion, Wellington was number 1 in the UK. The defining feature of our golf programme has been the combination of an excellent golf education, an equally strong academic and pastoral education, and the crucial development of independence and ownership. We developed many outstanding players to go on to top US University golf programmes such as Illinois, Northwestern and Washington; to elite amateur golf and the professional tours, so I hope it is clear that our expertise is strong. While we will not establish a golf programme at every Wellington school abroad, where it is culturally embedded and appropriate to the local context, we will do and we will do it properly. We aim that Wellington Bangkok will develop a superb golf programme with strong links to the similar ones in Wellington Tianjin and back home in the UK.

To find out more about the links between our Wellington family of schools, scholarships, our golf programme or any other subject covered by Iain, contact our admissions team today.

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