What are the basic needs of human life? For most of human history, the answer was food, clothing, and shelter. However, in our modern age, another vital one was added to the list: education. Education is not only important for individual progress, but also it accelerates the enhancement of its surrounding community. In today’s world, schools have become a second home for their students. Moreover, highlighting the importance of schools, Abraham Lincoln once famously cited, “The philosophy of the school room in one generation will be the philosophy of government in the next.”
With the passage of time, schools worldwide became an indivisible part of the society. Historically, the vast majority of schools have bettered their respective societies. To follow in their footsteps, Mr Tom Wingate and a small group of other British-trained educators established The Wingate School (TWS) in 2016. It is a British International School located in Mexico City, an institution committed to offer a programme focused on academic excellence, innovation, and individual development. With the purpose of delivering a world class education, TWS aims to form a community of critical thinkers who have both a diverse perspective and strong social commitment.
About the School
TWS is located in semi-rural Huixquilucan, a beautiful green site of around 11,000 square metres, on the western edge of the metropolis. Situated by a large and wooded ranch, its physical campus has continued to grow. Pupils are taught in its two multi-floor blocks – Kinder and Primary, and a brand new Secondary – along with two large basketball courts (one being roofed) and two even bigger fields.
Once fully developed, TWS will be a K through 6th Form institution. Its Form 3 was opened this August. The school roll, representing many nationalities, currently touches 400 pupils and, in time, will grow to 850. TWS now employs 80 members of teaching, administration, and ancillary staff.
Mission and Vision
In developing and promoting its vision and mission, the very experienced leadership team at TWS has collated and applies best practice from around the world. The heart of its mission statement stresses how the school continues to work hard, to provide teaching and learning that are second to none. In addition, the school pays close attention to its hiring process, aligning its institutional needs with the career development of teachers who approach it.
The academic staff, who also hail from around the world, work with the IEYC, the International Primary Curriculum, and Cambridge courses (80% of the teaching is in English). “In time, we will be adding the International Baccalaureate,” said Tom. Speaking of his colleagues delivering the curriculums, he commented, “Collegiality practised between and among the staff is an essential school spirit.”
Promising Learning Experience
Tom shared his views about the work culture – “Our educational priorities must grow directly out of our vision and mission. Our children should be happy, inspired, respectful, and generous with others, and committed to their personal and academic development. Our teachers and mentors, then, must be with them every step of the way, encouraging, teaching, and guiding.”
Underpinning everything at TWS, working with an Advisory Board, is the desire to be a highly professional institution that positively touches lives. To this great end, all administrators and teachers at TWS fuse their academic curriculum with the School of Character, using myriad daily opportunities to teach ‘the whole person’ how to live an ethical, committed, and contented life. Once part of the school community, pupils soon learn that respect is the core value of the school.
Parents who apply to the school typically focus on a high level of English, an excellent academic level provided across the broad curriculum at the school, plus the values the teachers actively teach. Music is extremely important to TWS team, too. Up to 2020, and alongside their choirs, every child in the school, starting at Pre-First, played the violin, viola, cello, or double bass. Since then, other artisticoptions have provided even more choices.
In short, in terms of learning outcomes, when the time comes for the pupil to leave TWS, he or she should be a very well-prepared, confident young person, quite ready for the next challenges in life. Whatever else the pupils go on to learn, as they ought, their experiences at TWS will remind themselves to be the best they can be in whatever role life provides.
Tom Wingate, the Head Teacher, has enjoyed a wide experience in many schools, principally in the UK, Mexico, and the USA. This experience has undoubtedly helped to maintain the momentum of this relatively new project. Along with that experience, both in the classroom (he began as a teacher of English) and in his many administrative roles, during his long career he has acquired four education-related degrees. Among his many active roles in the past, he ran the big intake Year 9 at the world class City of London School in the 2000s. While there at CLS, he also coached successful public speaking and debating teams, including the ESU 2006 International Debate Champions.
Of the leadership at TWS, Tom emphasises how it really is about the administrative team. He believes that a closely-knit administrative team, which the school possesses, is the best way to arrive at effective decisions and action.
Outside the Classroom
TWS does not just exist within its walls. Extra-curricular activities, of which there are many, from chess and gardening clubs (the latter RHS Level 4 out of 5), to robotics and many sports, also offer distinct experiences through social responsibility activities.
Tom says, “We are very conscious of our wider community and the opportunities that provides. Thus, our social responsibility work is burgeoning. In the pueblo near our campus we, and the PTA, have an active relationship with the old folk’s day centre. Visits made by the children there are reciprocated, especially on festive dates in the Mexican calendar.”
Close by, the pupils interact with the local primary school, most obviously in the annual World Cup football tournament held at their campus. Importantly, TWS’s pupils mix with theirs in the same teams – all teams being given national identities – to compete for and win the trophy.
“Naturally, the high participation rates we see are closely connected to the skill and enthusiasm with which the extracurricular activities are presented by our staff. One activity automatically is included in our school fees, too,” Tom added.
Blending Best of Old and New Methodologies
In this Age of Technology, modern life is evolving so quickly. As a school, however, TWS does not throw out the tried and tested methodologies in teaching its children. While there is no magic ‘silver bullet,’ resolving all, the search for best practice, blending the best of the old and the new, is a constant one. The Google Chromebooks and smartboards used at TWS are wonderful adjuncts to the skills of its highly professional teachers. In other words, they really assist but still do not replace the teacher.
Ties That Bind
TWS already is a fully accredited Cambridge International School. It also is a proud member of the Mexico City Schools group, the Educational Committee of the British Chamber of Commerce, and the LAHC (Latin American Heads Conference). TWS also works closely with the Anglo in the city to promote professional development within its staff, believing everyone to be a lifelong learner. In turn, the Anglo works with the University of Buckingham, UK, in awarding post-grad qualifications. Developing its programmes, the School of Character connects with two other UK universities: the Jubilee Centre at the University of Birmingham, and the University of Leeds.
Dealing with the Pandemic
Talking about the pandemic, Tom shared his experiences. “The whole world asks how schools can adapt to the challenges Covid generates. Our primary duty as educators is a duty of care: we take all the obvious steps to ensure Covid does not spread. We have taken a cautious route, too, using a hybrid curriculum model of our own design, rather than hurrying back.”
“Covid aside, it is very apparent that the health of the children must take into account their mental well-being. By socializing and by staying engaged, a child can remain happier and can learn well. Whenever online, using zoom, TWS teachers have been and are highly creative regarding how to present their lessons’ content.” TWS has grown, even in these awkward times, and the management is willing to continue with its building programme, adding a 6th Form and an Arts block within three years. If it were larger than the target of 850 pupils, TWS is of the opinion that they would lose that critical individual touch.
The big ranch right by the school – the land partners – are developing a large sports club in the next two years. It is only the beginning, but it is clear there will be fantastic opportunities for synergy between the club’s facilities and the school’s Physical Education programme.
Paying attention to the future, Tom expressed his view succinctly, saying, “Facilities represent one thing only. Our resolve is not to lose sight of our vision and mission, of who we really are.”