Why British independent education is globally revered

David Tongue, Founding Headmaster of Brighton College Bangkok, the sister school of Brighton College – one of the UK’s top independent, co-educational schools outlines why British independent education has such a prestigious international reputation.

Science teaching at Brighton College

British independent education is rightly revered throughout the world for providing its pupils with the highest calibre of education. In 2015, figures from the Independent Schools Council in the UK indicated that its members were operating 44 overseas campuses, up from 20 in 2012.1 Pupils privileged enough to receive a British independent education go on to study at the leading universities and, as a result, are disproportionately represented in elite fields. Indeed, our Brighton alumni seemingly have choices that are elusive to many and find themselves at the pinnacle of professions as diverse as law, politics, medicine and journalism.

Get to know pupils to ensure academic progress

Much of the impetus for this comes from having the highest possible expectations for all our pupils. Many schools will place a ceiling – consciously or otherwise – on what they expect children to achieve. They will look at their examination syllabus, decide the skills and knowledge they would like their pupils to develop, and once they have met these targets they consider their task complete. At Brighton College our expectations for every child are constantly revised to ensure the highest levels of academic progress, which requires us to know our pupils incredibly well. The average size of British, independent schools is much lower than other schools, many of which have now ballooned in size to over 2,000 pupils. In large schools it is easy for pupils to get lost in the system and for a lack of personalisation to exist.

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High expectations and academic rigour require talented and inspirational teachers who can develop independence in their pupils by consistently challenging them in a comfortable, safe and nurturing environment. Ambitious and highly professional, our teachers are able to inspire their pupils, to teach them to be independent and to urge them to think and to question, to lead and to innovate.

Educate the whole child with co-curricular activities

The very best independent schools will focus on educating the whole child through a rich programme of co-curricular activities. Brighton College goes a step further than this by providing children with a balanced life in school. Our greatest academic successes in the UK and overseas – including gaining the highest A Level results ever achieved in Great Britain – have come during a period when we have asked our parents to stop using private tutors for their children (a practice we never actively encouraged) and we have focused on providing a lower quantity of higher quality prep or homework. Stressed and overworked pupils do not tend to excel – happiness is the prerequisite to success. The notion of providing pupils with a balanced life in school is further enhanced through the House System – a uniquely British independent school creation. At Brighton College our House System reaches into all areas of pupils’ academic and pastoral lives, providing children with a supportive family within the College, and indeed beyond, through linked Houses in our network of sister schools.

An extended and tailored curriculum

Perhaps the greatest differentiator, however, is in the curriculum. The independent nature of these schools means that they have been buffered from many of the externally imposed curriculum initiatives that have often resulted in eroded standards. This has allowed them to focus on extending and tailoring the curriculum to ensure that pupils are best prepared for their future. Brighton College has developed an international reputation for innovation such as the teaching of entrepreneurship, compulsory Mandarin, and by creating our own unique, integrated humanities subject, The Story of Our Land.  This bespoke course combines elements of history, geography, economics, sociology, politics and philosophy in a context that is both fresh and relevant to the lives of our pupils. This innovative content is in the 'DNA' of our curriculum. Indeed, a combined focus on high expectations, traditional academic rigour, an innovative curriculum and a balanced life for pupils epitomises the very best of British independent education and ensures all pupils become highly literate, numerate, articulate, self-assured and fully prepared, not only for entrance into the leading universities and professions but to embrace any challenges that an unpredictable future may bring.Brighton College Bangkok opens its Pre-Prep School for pupils aged 2-9 in September 2016 with the Prep and Senior Schools following in September 2017.

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David Tongue, Headmaster Brighton College Bangkok
David Tongue, Headmaster, Brighton College, Bangkok

Content provided by Brighton College Bangkok, a member of the Brighton College family of schools. Please see Brighton College Bangkok's entry in our Schools directory for further details.

Read David Tongue's article for Relocate Global that examines how a school can define a relocation assignment for families here.
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