Kensington Park School is set to open in Autumn 2017 in the heart of the museum district, along with its dedicated sixth form centre. KCW met with Director of Education Dick Jaine to talk about the brand new school in Kensington.
With a long and successful career in independent schools (notably St Paul’s in London) Jaine sees the school as a coming together of like-minded, established educators with the same goals in mind. The focus is on academics, to be sure, but also on what the school calls “co-curricular” development. “Our ethos isn’t out there!” laughs Jaine. “We have a lot of established teachers with a proven track record who really want to get on board with what we’re doing.” It’s an exciting time, too, for industrious teachers to get involved with the founding phase of the school.
Jaine is overseeing the transition from Duff Miller, the previous college on this site, and transforming it into Kensington Park School. The former school specialised in re-sits, and Jaine does not want to lose that aspect of the college, but also envisions it sitting more closely alongside other elite London schools like St Paul’s and Westminster.
Unlike Kensington Park School, many independent schools will not offer a re-sit provision. “For those folks who’ve just missed their grade at A level, the world isn’t over! We will always have places available for students who want to get back on track,” says Jaine.
What sets the new school apart, says Jaine, is its sixth-form specialism: Teaching styles and timetables are geared towards getting the best out of older students. The university team, too, is on hand to guide students towards the best courses and institutions for them.
“Co-curricular” is an important word for the school, which unlike “extra-curricular”, places students’ activities and interests at the heart of the education process. “We see it as key to education and a more natural way to prepare for life,” says Jaine, who places value on students cultivating a broader, wider interest in what they are studying.
Central to this is making the most of everything on the school’s doorstep in Kensington. Not only will students have access to such marvellous resources as the Natural History Museum or the Royal Albert Hall, but Jaine is also keen to point out and celebrate the open and collaborative nature of the institutions and professionals in the neighbourhood. Visiting academics, artists, musicians, dancers and athletes all provide insight and inspiration.
Important too, is the pastoral care that comes along with any educator’s responsibility. Jaine sees the individual student’s personal tutor as key here, as a “core relationship” for the student and as first point of contact for families.
The school takes boarders, with the new Boarding House accommodation set to welcome new students. Coming to live in the centre of London must be an incredibly exciting prospect for sixteen- and seventeen-year olds, and the boarding provision is geared towards helping young people get the most out of London while remaining safe in the city. “Flexi-boarding” options are available too for families that need to manage changing schedules and commitments.
The school has strong links with China, and offers opportunities for students to take course options in Shanghai. Also, at home in London, students can learn conversational Mandarin and get involved in exploring Chinese culture. “Chinese cultural input into the UK is huge and we want pupils to get involved in understanding a bit more about it.”
However Jaine sees the school as equally attractive to local students and wants to see London’s inclusivity and diversity reflected in the school. Jaine’s career has been particularly associated with London, and he is proud of London’s teachers. “London should be proud of the fact that when the league tables come out, the top schools are in and around London. And schools, in the end, are about teachers.”