Last updated 20 February 2017

Matt Mills – Head of School at Bangkok Patana School



Speaking to Mr. Matt Mills, Head of School at Bangkok Patana School, ExpatFinder found out how the British international school in Thailand has groomed its students over the past six decades. Beyond academics, the school tries to nurture interests and add a touch of fun into its learning environment with dedicated playgrounds, science and arts centres, sports facilities and collaborative spaces.

With locals taking up one-fifth of its student population and UK, US and Australian being the major nationalities, Bangkok Patana has also made sure to introduce Thai lessons, festival celebrations, community service and cultural exchanges as part of their education. Foreseeing the difficulties that some students may face, Mr. Mills said that they have set up several touchpoints such as the induction programme, parent-teacher group, pastoral counsellors as well as the Learning Support, and Gifted and Talented divisions.

Company: Bangkok Patana School

Category: International schools

Established since: 1957

Geographical coverage: Bangkok



Q: Tell us a bit about yourself and the teachers at the school.

A: Most of our teachers come from the UK, and they are all professionally qualified as teachers. We look for teachers who are inspired by learning and teaching. They set high expectations for all our students and have clear objectives of what they are going to teach on a daily basis. Our teachers engage students and get them to look at their learning in a variety of ways. They give clear individual feedback and also value what their students say. They enjoy engaging with their students in extra-curricular activities as well as in academics. Above all, they are passionate about what they do every day.

Q: What makes your school stand out in terms of teaching methods, curriculum and facilities?

A: At Bangkok Patana School, we continue to put learning at the heart of everything so learners of all ages have the opportunities to fulfil their potential in everything they do. We look to develop students who are independent; have a global understanding of who they are; have a desire to learn more; and enjoy their learning. Our continual aim is to bring learning to life through a desire for excellence in learning and teaching.

We are an IB World School. We use the English National Curriculum as our base curriculum but adapt it to meet our international learners. Students in Year 11 complete their (I)GCSE exams and students in Years 12 and 13 follow the IB curriculum.

In addition to the essential skills of literacy, numeracy and Information and Communication Technology (ICT) as prescribed by the UK National Curriculum, we also look to develop the 21st century skills of critical thinking, problem-solving, communication and collaboration as these are the skills students will need to be successful in today’s and tomorrow’s world.

We feel it is essential that students learn within a setting that supports their individual educational and pastoral needs. Our campus sits on just over 40 acres of land. In Primary School, each Key Stage has its own area and playground. In Secondary School, faculties are housed in environments that mimic their learning areas. Our newly-built Science Centre for instance, has separate floors for Biology and Environmental Systems and Studies, Chemistry and Physics. Collaborative areas and classrooms with interconnecting doors provide a hub for interactive, collegial student learning. The Arts Centre and sports facilities such as the three swimming pools, football and rugby pitches and the tennis courts support the wide range of extra-curricular activities offered by the school. The learning environment fosters social, behavioural and problem-solving skills that we hope will inspire our students’ imaginations and present unique opportunities for larger scale learning.

Q: Do you feel the need to incorporate the local culture with your international program?

A: All students are empowered by intercultural, respectful contributions to local communities. The Community, Action, Service programme in Primary and Secondary schools sees students sharing their learning and activities with local and less fortunate schools. Primary students have Thai lessons incorporated into their timetable. Secondary students’ participate in cultural activities and celebrations throughout the year such as Loy Krathong and the King’s birthday celebrations. We also look to celebrate our host country and the learning opportunities this brings. For example, Year 2 students study ‘Rice is Nice’ and Year 5 and 6 students spend one week a year in a local area learning about the culture and environment. Opportunities are also given within and outside of curriculum time to celebrate different cultures and home languages. We challenge our students to be respectful contributors to local communities.

Q: Which are the most represented nationalities in your student population?

A: Students from the UK make up the largest nationality in the school. We usually range around 60 – 65 different nationalities in school with about 20% Thai students. We also have large groups of Australian and US students. As a school, we feel empowered by our inter-culturalism.

Q: What are the major challenges that you face as an international school in Thailand?

A: With our diverse community, sometimes people find it difficult to understand that our focus on fulfilling potential applies to the whole child not just on academic results. We also face differing perceptions of the meaning of an “international school”, which we see as one that is international beyond the curriculum to being international socially and culturally as well.

Q: How do you help students overcome language and cultural barriers with their schoolmates?

A: We value the home languages of our students and encourage them to take pride in their language and culture. With such a diverse student body, English is naturally the common denominator and is the language spoken most often in and out of class time. Our EAL (English as an Additional Language) programme supports children who are still developing their English language skills. All students have the opportunity to study home languages and world languages. Our goal is to enable students to become collaborative and confident communicators in English and their home language. Throughout the school. we emphasise respect and understanding of each other’s culture. Events such as International Day and cultural celebrations make us further appreciate the diversity in culture.

Q: Do you provide personalised assistance and extra-curricular programmes to help students adapting to the new country and international school?

A: New students are partnered with a buddy who helps them and befriends them to make the transition easier. Our PTG group introduce new parents to each other and they have one person every year who is appointed as the Newcomers Representative. Year group coffee mornings throughout the year facilitate friendships within families. Our induction programme for new students gives them the opportunity to get some familiarity with the school including visiting their new class and meeting their teacher before they begin school.  

Our extensive extra-curricular programme delivers about 400 sessions each week. Sports and arts are well represented along with many other activities such as community service clubs, the Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award and the Model United Nations (MUN).

Q: Do you have a special needs program?

A: Our Learning Support teachers are available to assist students who need support in meeting the challenges of the curriculum. Learning Support advises teachers on planning and providing further differentiation and resources as well as practical teaching and assessment support. Some children will demonstrate, or show the potential to demonstrate, outstanding abilities, creative flair or talents which will be significantly in advance of their peers. Our Gifted and Talented Coordinator is available to advise teachers and parents and, on occasions, to work with children who are identified as being gifted and talented. The school employs two full-time pastoral counsellors, one in the Secondary School and one in the Primary School. The pastoral counsellors are qualified and experienced to assist students and parents with any social or emotional issues related to the student. This may include things such as stress, depression, relocation concerns, family issues and relationship or school-related issues. The pastoral counsellors strictly adhere to professional ethics regarding confidentiality.

Q: In your opinion, what attitude and attributes should a student possess to thrive in an international school environment?

A: At Bangkok Patana, our Values are Well-Being, Learning and Global Citizenship. These values reflect the attitude and attributes we feel are important for students and staff to thrive in our international school environment. Students should develop into independent, empathetic, creative and critical thinkers. They should be balanced and fulfilled, responsible and honest; passionate and resourceful. They should learn to have integrity, be diverse and inclusive, ethical and informed.

Q: What is one piece of advice you'd give to parents looking for the right international school for their children?

A: International schools, in general, all stress strong academics - look at what the school does beyond academics to develop your child into a responsible, global citizen. 

Inform yourself about the philosophy of the school – is it academically-selective, is it for profit or non-profit, does it target a particular cultural group?

Look at the student cultural mix, go to the school during break times and hear the language spoken in the playground. A school may use English as a medium but the local language may be more commonplace out of the classroom - this may be a factor that unintentionally segregates your expat child.

Look at the overall curriculum – is it a good match for your child as a learner?


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