David Tongue, Brighton College Bangkok’s Founding Headmaster, is currently Headmaster of Brighton College Al Ain, which was recently awarded the highest-ever inpection rating given to a school in the Emirate.
Tell us a little about your background and career to date
“I was educated at a North London grammar school, and after graduating from university my first overseas post was at a leading HMC British school in Madrid, initially as Head of Geography and then as Curriculum Director. During seven years in Madrid I worked as a Schools Inspector for the National Association of British Schools in Spain and completed a Master’s Degree in Educational Leadership with a research focus on leadership within an international context. My first headship was in South America as Headmaster of the Senior School on the Falkland Islands – a British overseas territory. I joined Brighton College Al Ain prior to start-up and as Headmaster of the College I am responsible for the overall leadership of the school.”
What attracted you to a leadership position at Brighton College?
“School leadership is an incredibly creative, rewarding and dynamic undertaking. As a headmaster, I have always set the highest possible standards for myself, my colleagues, my schools and the pupils in my care. No other leading independent school epitomises this attention to detail to the same degree as Brighton College – from its unique combination of traditional academic rigour combined with an innovative and creative approach, to its legacy of appointing the very best teachers and its focus on the highest possible standards. I was attracted to Brighton because it achieves excellent results in an environment where pupils are allowed to develop their own unique combination of talents and passions, in a kind, respectful, tolerant and supportive atmosphere.”
“I was attracted to Brighton because it achieves excellent results in an environment where pupils are allowed to develop their own unique combination of talents and passions, in a kind, respectful, tolerant and supportive atmosphere”
What have been the highlights of your time at Brighton College Al Ain? What has been your proudest achievement there?
“I have loved every minute of my time in Al Ain. Setting up a successful school from scratch has been a wonderful experience. I have had the opportunity to work with some truly excellent and inspiring teachers and some unique and lovely pupils. Seeing the school grow from an architect’s plan to an incredibly well-resourced campus, welcoming our first pupils, witnessing the excellent teaching and the phenomenal academic progress of our pupils, and becoming the first new school to achieve the highest awarded inspection ranking in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi have all been highlights; however, I am most proud of the fact that we are providing a truly authentic Brighton College education for the children of Al Ain. I am confident that a pupil from Brighton could join us here and find the College remarkably familiar (apart from the heat, of course!).”
What are the two biggest challenges we face in education? How does a Brighton College education prepare children for the world as it is today?
“The major challenge we face as educators is in ensuring that children are given the opportunity to enjoy their childhood. At Brighton College we get to know each and every one of our pupils exceptionally well, ensuring all secure mastery of a wide range of skills and go well beyond the scope of the syllabus. These skills are not limited to one particular subject area, but are vital for their future success and for them to compete in the global economy. We teach our pupils to be literate, numerate and articulate; to write well, construct an argument and debate; to lead, innovate and be entrepreneurial; to be creative and technologically literate and to stand up on stage and have the confidence to inspire an audience.”
What is a Brighton College education? What makes it unique?
“Brighton College has tradition and history but it is not weighed down by this – it is always looking to evolve and improve, it feels fresh not stuffy, it is ambitious, aspirational and modern. The College has a unique mix of traditional academic rigour with a creative and innovative approach to teaching. It is not looking to create a stereotype: the College has a culture of respect and tolerance and looks at each child as an individual, identifying their unique combination of talents and nurturing them to make sure they’re successful and that all successes, no matter how small, are celebrated. However, its outstanding academic results are not achieved through stringent selection criteria, but by inspirational teaching. The College has an innovative approach to curriculum design, offers the widest possible range of co-curricular activities and has a culture of excellence in everything it does.”
“The children at Brighton College Bangkok will be happy, valued as individuals and will have every success celebrated”
How is your family feeling about moving to Bangkok?
“Bangkok is a vibrant, modern and varied city. As a family we have lived across three continents and have travelled widely. This means that we settle in to new locations very quickly. My wife Victoria loves being at the centre of the College and wider community and my children, Harry (7) and Annabella (4), are very much looking forward to making some new friends and the varied experiences that Thailand’s rich culture will bring. Having grappled with the snow blizzards of an Antarctic winter in the Falklands followed by the 50 degree heat of a desert summer in the UAE, it is true to say that we can’t wait to arrive!”
What are your priorities between now and when the school opens?
“My priority is the recruitment of the highest quality teaching and leadership staff. Our teachers will need to be talented and able to inspire and challenge their pupils. Working in a start-up school demands creativity, flexibility and tenacity. During the pre-opening phase I will be ensuring educational oversight of the development of the College campus to guarantee that our iconic site becomes the leading facility in the region. I will work closely with the College’s Marketing and Admissions teams to ensure that families of children joining the College fully understand the unique benefits of a Brighton College education.”
What message would you like to send prospective families thinking about sending their children to Brighton College Bangkok?
“The children at Brighton College Bangkok will be happy, valued as individuals and will have every success celebrated. They will be given the opportunity to be taught by the best teachers and grow into polite, considerate and empathetic individuals. Our children will develop confidence, be outgoing and will be stretched academically. They will be given the opportunity to develop the widest possible range of extra-curricular interests and become ambitious and successful. Towards the end of their time at Brighton College Bangkok we will assist with applications to the world’s leading universities. As a parent of school-aged children myself, I am acutely aware of the questions parents need to ask before choosing the right school for their child.”