The Knowledge Review came across Thames British School, Warsaw, when looking for ‘The Best Performing British Schools in Europe, 2023,’ where we interviewed Mr. Raymond Finch, the Managing Director of the school’s five (and soon to be six) Warsaw-based campuses.
Raymond told us about the school’s history, outstanding accomplishments to date, and future development plans and ambitions.
Thames is a UK-owned and managed network of British international schools, providing high-quality care and education to Preschool children aged two up to Pre-University students aged 18-19. The school currently has five campuses in Warsaw, one in Madrid and one in the United Kingdom, and it is planning to expand in Poland and across the EU.
Mr. Finch is proud to lead an experienced and highly qualified team who provides excellent continuity year after year, and this year the team will be complemented by new, accomplished British teachers. The overwhelming majority of teachers possess British or UK-based international school teaching experience, having completed either a Bachelor’s or Postgraduate Degree in education; most also hold UK Qualified Teacher Status or the equivalent in their home country.
Providing Two High-Quality Pre-University Pathways
The school’s educational programmes exceed all of the Cambridge International and English National Curriculum requirements from Preschool to Year 11 for ages 2 to 16. From September 2023, the school will significantly enhance its A Level offer, making it the only school in Warsaw to offer students a choice of two high-quality pre-university pathways: the Cambridge International A Level and International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme.
The school encompasses five superb campus facilities, mostly in idyllic locations near the city centre, such as Mokotow, Wawelska, Park Szczęśliwicki, and Włochy, whilst other facilities, such as Piaseczno, are in idyllic rural areas. Many of its campuses are housed in buildings steeped in Warsaw’s rich history and located in pleasant, leafy parts of the city.
Expanding the Horizons of Excellence
The school is committed to achieving excellence by nurturing a love of learning and developing a growth mindset in its students. Its senior students are highly motivated young adults who are constantly pushing the boundaries of excellence.
The school fosters not only intellectual growth but also individual creativity, collaboration skills, and physical, social and emotional well-being. The latter will help provide its pupils with the resilience, commitment and enthusiasm that are essential to success, along with the willingness to take risks and embrace challenges.
Nurturing Pupils for Turbulent Times
As a British-style Cambridge International School offering both A Levels and the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme, its mission is to prepare young adults for a world that is exciting but also turbulent and where it is difficult to predict the careers and challenges of the future.
With this in mind, the school has designed a curriculum that will equip its graduates with transferrable 21st-century skills and provide them with a high level of flexibility in their choice of university and future careers.
Ideal Leader to Pave a Path
Raymond has twenty-three years of experience in education, mostly in British International and Bilingual schools.
He began his teaching career with a four-year stint in London in 1999. In 2005, Raymond took on the Key Stage Two Leader role in senior management at the British International School of Moscow. Since 2010, Raymond has served as Executive Principal and Headteacher in various schools.
Between 2018 and 2022, Raymond successfully led the reorganization of a Preschool, Primary School, and two Secondary Schools in Baku, Azerbaijan. He was the founding Headmaster of the British School of Tashkent, Headteacher at the International School of Moscow, and most recently, Executive Principal at MTK International School in Baku.
His team in Baku built MTK as a premier centre for Social-Emotional Learning, developed a top-notch Cambridge IGCSE and A Level program, and constructed a distinctive bilingual curriculum for primary and secondary pupils. Raymond also oversees school inspections for the Independent Schools Inspectorate (ISI).
Changing the Educational Landscape with New-Age Technologies
It’s vital to constantly review the curricula and enrichment opportunities offered by the school. As a Cambridge International School, Thames British School receives substantial support in terms of ‘the what’ (keeping pace with new curricula content, reflecting 21st-century requirements and standards), but ‘the how’ is very much on the school.
The school is making digital and project-based learning, theory of knowledge and philosophy for children, and the expansion of digital learning all key foci for 2023/24. This is in tandem with the school’s introduction of RULER social-emotional learning.
Secondly, assessments provide benchmarks to make sure students are progressing toward their objectives. The teachers at Thames British School make extensive use of formative assessment in their lessons, using software such as Socrative and Nearpod, which provide real-time snapshots of student learning.
The Cambridge Primary Checkpoint Test, administered in Years 6 and 9, IGCSE examinations, IBDP and A Level exams are also crucial indicators of school performance, as are the related CEM and other internal benchmarking assessments.
Thirdly, school leadership teams perform internal quality assurance, which involves observing and evaluating teaching and learning, reviewing the quality of student work, conferencing with students, staff and parents, and stakeholder surveys.
Alongside expressing gratitude and giving the staff credit for their achievements, the school supports its staff to augment their strengths and address areas for development.
Taking Personalized Learning to a New Level
Thames British School is now focused on digital learning and AI, and it is investing a great deal in training its students and teachers and purchasing digital educational tools. Technology is a great formative assessment tool, giving teachers real-time feedback on the effectiveness of their approaches and any remaining gaps in student learning. The aim is to provide even more stimulating, interactive and highly personalized learning experiences and encourage student collaboration.
The school plans to use iPads for Primary and Chromebooks for Secondary students in around 25 percent of activities in 2024 (this will vary by age) whilst prioritizing e-safety and student well-being.
Teachers are experimenting with myriad innovative digital resources, such as Nearpod, Socrative, Minecraft Education, Kahoot and Flipgrid. The school has also implemented Kognity (https://kognity.com/) for IGCSE students, a popular state-of-the-art platform endorsed both by Cambridge and the IBO.
Thames British School’s sister company, Thames Online, offers high-quality Cambridge IGCSE and A Level distance learning courses for students aged 14-19.
Innovative After-School Activities
Thames provides a wide selection of on-campus after-school clubs with a range of foci: academic, sporting, musical, computing, etc. Some of the most popular clubs are Robotics, Mental Arithmetic, Brain Fitness, Coding 1 (Programming), Coding 2 (Minecraft for Education), Chess, Art, Judo, Kickboxing, Instrumental Music, Dance, Ballet, Acrobatics, Tennis and Drama.
As of September 2023, it will be the only school in Warsaw, and one of only a handful in Europe to implement the Yale Centre for Emotional Intelligence RULER programme – an innovative social-emotional learning approach proven to improve academic achievement, increase emotional intelligence and social skills and enhance student well-being. Having witnessed the hugely positive impact that RULER has had on students, staff and families, Mr. Raymond can’t wait to get started.
Translating the Aspirations
They are a fast-growing organization with plans to elevate Thames British School, Warsaw, to the ranks of the finest schools in Europe and to expand into new regions and countries.
Raymond is complementing his wonderful team with new teachers who represent the very best of British and international teaching talent. It includes friends, former colleagues and top professionals whom he has been fortunate to meet at COBIS and other events. This will be essential to translating the school’s aspirations into concrete action.