Adam Branton, a Year 4 teacher at Wellington College, Shanghai had visited Hong Kong with his family for the Lunar New Year holiday when the COVID-19 outbreak prompted the closure of all schools and flights in China. With one suitcase packed, the family then made their way to Thailand where they had to wait for nearly two months before they could fly back home to Shanghai.
“Thinking back to my own childhood, I was reminded of the 1978 American series – Battlestar Galactica – a science fiction story, set in space, where a ‘rag-tag fugitive fleet’ took to the stars to search for a new home.
“As it became clear that Wellington Shanghai would be closed for a longer period, the Master of Wellington Bangkok, Christopher Nicholls, offered up his school to us. In turn, I offered to volunteer in order to assist any other families that were also here. On our arrival we found that we were no longer part of a ‘rag-tag’ fleet, but part of Wellington.
“Here was a school that had reached out to help us in a time when we were faced with a lack of certainty – to either make plans or to know what we should do next. I left my first day at Wellington College Bangkok, feeling calmer, with a reduced feeling of stress from the uncertainty we had been facing. ‘We are Wellington’ and, as such, found ourselves to be part of the extended Wellington family.”
Read our review of Wellington College, Bangkok here.
Wellington Bangkok opened up its classes to Branton’s daughter, as well as two other Wellington Shanghai families who were also stranded in Bangkok.
Branton adds: “Being welcomed with open arms, the pupils were able to access some of the curriculum offered by Bangkok; our pupils could switch between morning PE lessons and afternoon e-learning. As well as picking up new e-skills and learning about a different culture, our pupils have also been making new friends.”
Christopher Nicholls, master of Wellington College Bangkok, said that he was happy to ‘pay it forward’ after experiencing a similar scenario due to the Fukushima Daiichi disaster nearly 10 years ago.
“I was offered space at Tanglin Trust School in Singapore to host around 15 of our families who had left Tokyo for safety. We were able to run a great little satellite school for three weeks while things sorted themselves out in Japan.
“I’m delighted that Wellington College Bangkok has been able to support our China families in this way. And it’s been an excellent benefit for us, too, as the students and parents we have been working with are really outstanding ambassadors for their school!”
The unexpected student exchange has helped the school to prepare its online learning programme in case schools in Thailand are temporarily closed.
Nicholls said: "Seeing the Wellington College Shanghai students doing their work in our Learning Studios was definitely helpful for our teachers to see how this work could be implemented practically.
"These students worked quite diligently during the day, and still had opportunities to play sports in our PE classes and enjoy positive social interactions with other students their age to give a welcome sense of normalcy during uncertain times."
The experience has also allowed the Bangkok campus to build on its existing relationships with Wellington schools in the UK and other parts of China.
Nicholls added: “This experience has only strengthened our resolve to make it happen. No matter which school they come from within the group, our students have shown us they are living up to what it means to be a Wellingtonian, especially the identity of being inclusive and our value of kindness, both within and outside of the classroom.”