• Located at the heart of a bustling community
• 20-minute drive from city centre
• Spacious campus with mix of modern and traditional facilities
There’s certainly no shortage of international schools in the heart of Bangkok, so why do hundreds of families make the journey out of town to Bangkok Patana School? After taking a quick and easy 20-minute drive from city centre, we soon discovered why.
Located in a bustling community and surrounded by a mix of trendy cafes and local food stalls, this school has plenty of charm. Built on a large plot of land that was once regarded as ‘way out of town’, Patana has a spacious campus that has even extended to both sides of the road. Close to Sukhumvit Road – and just a 30-minute walk from Bearing BTS station – this all-through school is also well-connected.
This is a large school with more than 2,200 students, but thanks to its low-rise building and green surroundings it feels warm and welcoming. It’s also one of Thailand’s oldest schools, yet its mix of old and new facilities gives the school a unique character. With its distinctive clocktower, tree-lined walkways, modern architecture and old-school sports courts, Patana is a sprawling campus with plenty of space for its large student body.
There’s a spacious drop-off area and security guards at every entrance, making the school feel safe and secure. And, for students who need to cross the road to access the school’s sports complex, Patana has built its very own overpass.
• Impressive new arts centre
• Huge sports hall that can accommodate the entire school
• Dedicated facilities for FS, primary and secondary
While Patana is 60 years old, this is not a school that’s stuck in the past. True to its name, which is Thai for development, Patana is constantly investing in change and development. The school has just come to the end of a 10-year masterplan, which has seen the refurbishment of various classrooms and, most recently, the completion of a new foundation stage (FS) building. There are however, still parts of the campus, such as the hard courts, that are as old as the school.
It’s a very green campus that feels well-established and ‘lived in’ but has plenty of contemporary facilities nestled within its mature gardens. The school has separate low-rise buildings for FS1 and FS2, Years 1 and 2, Years 3 and 4, Years 5 and 6, and specialist blocks for secondary students. There are dedicated canteens, play areas, libraries and sports facilities for the primary and secondary schools, which all helps to maintain a small community feel within this large campus. It also helps to spread the students across the campus to avoid overcrowding; at lunchtimes, for example, the school has two sittings at its two-storey primary canteen.
Patana says: “Years 1 and 2 have their own playground and field space; Years 3 and 4 have the same, as do Years 5 and 6. While there is integration, students do have ownership of ‘their’ part of the school where they’re not competing with older students. That said, there’s also a lot of cross-collaboration between students; for example, Years 12 and 13 will come and work with FS children.”
“We’re a big school but we have a cross campus principal and a cross campus team who work hard at making the school coherent. They run things like the student council and the student environmental committee, where you’ll see Year 6 students working with Year 13.”
The new FS1 and FS2 building is a modern, two-storey facility with a huge ground-floor central area for free-flow activities that’s surrounded by large, well-lit classrooms. It’s a peaceful, happy place with neutral colours, porthole-like windows in different sizes, pops of colour from the student’s artwork on display, and a very child-friendly design including low-level walls dividing the different learning pods, chairs and tables, and reading corners built into the wall. There’s also a small area with theatre-style seating for assemblies and performances. We particularly liked the mini kitchens where students dish up their lunches every day and have weekly cooking classes making smoothies, soups etc.
Patana says: “There’s always something exciting happening in this part of the school and, although, it’s a very large open space, it never gets very noisy. The neutral colours seem to calm things down.”
Upstairs, we saw the music room, soft play areas, a sleep room for those children who still need nap time, and a physical development studio. Outside there’s a large grassy play area with wooden play equipment and shaded seating areas, and a learn to swim pool.
Patana says: “We have an open-door policy here, and parents are always encouraged to come in and participate.”
The primary and secondary buildings are home to classrooms, multi-purpose rooms for specialist subjects such as art and indoor PE, and IT suites.
Patana says: “All students access to banks of iPads and laptops in their year groups, but we still think it’s important, particularly with the younger students, to bring them into an IT suite to learn about online safety.”
We visited the separate libraries for KS1 and KS2. In contrast to the rest of the campus, the KS1 library is bursting with colour, floor to ceiling displays of artwork, and shelves overflowing with books; it feels fun, inspiring and welcoming. The KS2 library has a more neutral design, large sunken seats and study areas, all ideal for Years 3 to 6. Both are hubs for learning, reading and author visits, and they lead out into a learning garden with a miniature stage. There are also plenty of areas for students to study and play outside, including an undercover area for Years 1 and 2 and garden plots for Year 6.
The secondary buildings include specialist science, English, humanities, maths, and language departments; a two-storey library with study areas; a canteen including a smoothie and noodle bar; and a student lounge with modern seating areas.
Like any top tier school, Patana has well-equipped specialist rooms that are designed for IGCSE and IBDP learning – but it has gone the extra mile by creating themed learning zones. From a beehive-style, hexagonal science block to an English department based on the map of the London Underground, Patana has designed some inspiring learning environments using colour, wall art and furniture.
Patana says: “Every department has its own individual design and its own collaborative areas where students can have conversations, work on a project or work independently.”
A standout facility here is the new three-storey science block with separate floors for chemistry, biology and physics.
Patana says: “It’s all solar-powered, each lab is equipped for a particular science, and it has a functional, honeycomb design. There are plenty of interactive learning spaces where you’ll see writing on the glass and lots of activity. Our science department is very forward-thinking and, rather than writing in books, students write on whiteboards here.”
Patana has invested heavily in a range of top-class sporting facilities over the years, and it’s very evident that sport plays a huge part in student life here. There are several sports fields, a climbing wall, 25m and 50m swimming pools, squash courts, and hard courts dotted around the campus. There’s an older gymnasium with specialist equipment including foam pits, vaults and beams, which is about to be renovated to include a viewing gallery. And then there’s a recently built New York-style dance academy that is used for parent classes, after-school clubs, and a forthcoming dance programme. The school is most proud, though, of its vast sports hall, which is large enough to hold the entire school.
Patana says: “We are one of the only schools that can host all of SEASAC (South East Asia Student Activities Conference). We hosted Super SEASAC two years ago, which had over 750 student athletes.”
The school also looks and feels like a creative hub for students. The new arts centre certainly gives children the space to perform, play and practice, with its 300-seat black box theatre, a 600-plus theatre with orchestra pit, practice rooms, and drama studios. And the many displays of student art work across the campus are testament to Patana’s creativity. We saw giant landmarks including the Taj Mahal; pottery sculptures of Roald Dahl characters; life-sized sculptures of fairy tale characters; and 50 tigers that were created to celebrate the school’s 60th anniversary in 2017 including The Matrix Tiger.
Patana says: “All the installations around campus are students’ work, and there’s lots of creativity on show.”
Across the road from the main campus, there is an outdoor classroom where students walk through muddy fields in their wellies to learn about environmental science; what a rare find for a city school.
• Well-equipped specialist rooms
• Positive and engaging learning spaces
• Neutral decor, uncluttered rooms
In the new FS building we saw plenty of learning resources, role play stations and themed displays – and lots of wide open space. The warm neutral earth tones and wooden equipment make for a relaxing learning environment where students are unlikely to feel over-stimulated or overwhelmed.
In primary and secondary, four classrooms typically share one pod or central area. All classrooms have age-appropriate furniture, are well-lit, and equipped with enough learning resources without feeling cluttered. The grey and blue neutral tones help to create a calm learning environment, and the displays of student work on the walls are inspiring.
Patana says: “Each year group has a leader of learning for welfare and a leader of learning for curriculum, so there’s two heads of year with defined roles and responsibilities.”
During our tour, we saw the ground-floor Year 1 classrooms, which each led out to the play area. We also saw the newly refurbished Year 3 classrooms, as well as a flexible central area that’s designed for different student groupings and learning activities. There’s a variety of seating choices, including soft-shaped seating, chairs, and stools, and curtains used to break up the physical space.
Patana says: “We’re really big on collaborative spaces, which you’ll see in every year group. The curtains are used for the students to create caves and pods. There are also lots of working walls to encourage our students to be creative.”
We met head of primary Jason Cooper who explained how teaching blends the UK National Curriculum with connected learning.
“Our teaching is a hybrid of the IPC, IB philosophy and the UK National Curriculum, so we don’t always follow the same content as the UK but we develop the same skills. For example, Year 6 students are studying human migration. This isn’t on the UK curriculum, but it develops the same history and geography skills that you would in the UK curriculum; we’re focusing on content that’s more relevant and meaningful to the students here.”
In the secondary school, we saw well-equipped, modern specialist rooms including science labs, D&T workshops that are as functional as they are attractive. After all, it’s not enough for a school to have facilities that just ‘look’ good.
Head of IB Andy Roff, who has been at the school for 15 years, says: “We’ve invested in creating pods and other collaborative spaces over the last few years. These are so effective as they support our modern pedagogical approach to learning.”
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