Interview: Bruce Grindlay, upcoming principal of Rugby School Thailand

Bruce Grindlay is swapping Kent for Thailand in September. IE learns about the current headmaster of Sutton Valence School’s passion for music and cooking, and how he is preparing for his new role

Congratulations on your new role. What was it about Rugby School Thailand that made you take the job?

Thank you, I am very excited by this opportunity. I was drawn to the role for three reasons. Firstly, the Thai family owners are truly committed to education, as is evinced by the extraordinary facilities and investment they have made into the school site. Working with the Rugby School Group resonates with me.

Their belief in educating the whole child and having vibrant co-curricular and enrichment opportunities running alongside high academic standards is what I have espoused wherever I have worked. Finally, the potential of RST to be a world-class boarding school is obvious and I want to help the school realise that.

What’s the best and worst thing about being a headteacher?

The best thing is definitely being able to create the platforms and opportunities for all in the school to achieve and excel, whether that be students or staff. It is so satisfying helping someone to perform at the highest level. The worst thing is informing someone that they can no longer be a part of the school community for whatever reason.

What was your favourite subject at school?

Music has always been my favourite subject because it combines so many disciplines and skills: the repetitious routine of essential practice and technical exercise; the intellectual rigour of analysing and understanding compositional processes and techniques; the mathematical beauty of structure and form and, of course, the emotional creativity and responses it evokes.

Rugby School Thailand is located on an 80-acre, purpose-built campus in Pattaya

What are you currently reading?

‘Half of a Yellow Sun’ by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. It’s good, old-fashioned compelling storytelling and beautifully crafted. The narrative is chronological, but there are clever jumps in time, so the reader fills in the gaps of family events the characters know and from which they are still experiencing emotional fallout. It has a great saga feel; family sagas interwoven with powerful events in Nigeria’s history.

What issue in education are you most passionate about?

I am passionate about the individual: no two children are the same and, therefore, their outcomes and educational journeys will not and should not be the same. The sooner we all realise that educational success needs to be measured by the improved outcome for each student rather than merely a wealth of institutional statistics and percentage A and A* grades, the better.

If you weren’t in education what would you do instead?

I would attempt to be a chef. I adore cooking and find it therapeutic, both relaxing and creative. It is similar to music in that sense: the mundane and rhythmic repetition of chopping and preparing is wonderfully mind emptying, whereas the actual cooking itself is artistic, challenging and highly creative.


Grindlay believes in having “vibrant co-curricular and enrichment opportunities running alongside high academic standards”


With a year to go until you step into your new role, how will you be preparing?

I will be finding out more about Thai culture and trying to learn some basic words and phrases. I will be in close contact with the school and aim to meet as many of the staff as I can through various Zoom conference calls. I will also be spending some time up at Rugby School working with the team there and interviewing for some new teachers for the 21/22 academic year.

Can you sum up your experience of leading a school through the pandemic and what you have learned?

Dealing with the global pandemic has been a real struggle for so many, however, every cloud has a silver lining and the experiences of last summer have taught us a lot and demonstrated some real strengths and opportunities.

At Sutton Valence School we learned how quickly we are able to adapt; how creative and innovative everyone can be; our resilience and determination; and how digital technology and new ways of working can actually enhance, complement and improve our provision and educational offering.

However, what really stood out for me is how the entire community coalesced and worked together to overcome adversity; it was truly heart-warming. Whether it was the support all staff showed each other; the charitable and generous acts of kindness enacted by so many to those that needed it; or by the way the parent and student bodies rallied round, backed our initiatives and worked to make our remote learning a success, it was the community working together that made our provision so effective.

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