From Wellington China to Wellington India: Conrad Botha, Head of Early Years
The end of 2022 will mark my third year with Wellington Colleges International and Huili in China and I still fondly remember my very first visit to our Nursery in Hangzhou during 2019 and the sheer joy of experiencing a Huili early years education in action. What impressed me from the outset was the interpretation of the very best early years practices from around the globe interpreted into a coteaching bilingual context in China. The nursery and its skilful team of educators understood that there could be no straight transference of any approach that did not take account of its very own cultural context, the children, adults that work within its learning, its local community, and the country in which it was being represented.
Given the ever-evolving landscape of international education, the historic Wellington values and identity remain steadfast. We always choose courage over comfort, what is meaningful to our beliefs of education over what is shallow, or without lasting impact. We choose to celebrate and practice our values rather than simply announcing them. Throughout my time with Wellington, I have experienced much change and forward-thinking initiatives that has enabled us to fill a growing niche in the international and bilingual education sector on a strategically practical level. Some of the most impactful initiatives grown during my tenure as Head of Early Years and Lower Primary at Wellington College Hangzhou that has influenced our education offer include the application and embedding of tools such as the Leuven scales to uphold the wellbeing of our pupils and staff as central to all we do, the transformation of our bilingual lower primary offer from a traditional to a progressive child centred project approach, delivered through a collaborative, bilingual co-teaching model. The Huili Nursery Hangzhou Atelier that extends on our bilingual approaches, merging the languages of music and art bringing to life the unique form of expression and communication through early years performing arts for our youngest pupils. The invention of a bespoke cutting-edge IT platform for the WCC EY assessment framework supporting the very best practices for effective and accurate data- driven assessment practices across the groups Early Years settings and Lower Primary school. Above all, my journey with Wellington College China has been filled with exceptional educators within a community that understands their responsibility and importance of meaningful relationships as a means to strive for excellence in both their own professional development and for first class provision for all of our children.
We have also revelled in the collaboration with other schools around the world such as Arbor School Dubai, The British School of Belgium and Amity International school Abu Dhabi and educational experts and leading practitioners such as Fiona Carter, Dr Ferrer, Matthew Savage, Judith Twani, Kath Murdoch, and Helen Tate to name but a few, who have joined us on our journey.
This respect of what the Wellington education is and can be, has proved to be a cornerstone of my experience with the college which has allowed my admiration and connection to develop, strengthen and grow. As Carina Rinaldi articulates “if to educate is to develop a sense of belonging, understood as the cultural basis making it possible for each individual to find their way, the truest meaning of the learning approach is to help every community, every school to take responsibility for educating its children and its own future” then the purest meaning of a Wellington education is the generosity that is extended through the most generous and authentic interpretation of an international education in an environment that knows no cultural boundaries . Where adults, and children respond to their learning processes with understanding, intuitiveness, confidence, knowledge, and an acumen that blends intelligence, emotions, and perception. Huili Nursery listened and understood this as a cultural basis making it possible for each individual member of the community to build a future for their children and for themselves as educators and leaders for the future, ensuring that the Wellington ethos impact far beyond its very own. And so my encounter and connection with Wellington College China in 2019 has realised many possibilities.
We continue to be honest about the joys and challenges we have faced. That we have continued to keep faith with the vision that we had when Wellington College was first established is a tribute to all those educators who have stood alongside us in going deeper with their understanding of a Wellington education and its ability to uncover the real capabilities for all children and make them visible to themselves and the world. With a deep love and admiration for the excellent Wellington and Huili approaches to early years practice in China, combined with my personal fascination of influencing how the world responds to and view the importance of early years education, I was naturally drawn to Wellington College International Pune as it embarks on a journey in establishing itself as the very first premium group of schools in India with the first set to open August 2023. In a few months, as we begin to shape our community and when my mind begins to wonder and become curious about the impressions our founding children and their families make on our school, I will be able to seek inspiration from my own impressions of India and my new and exciting experiences of living in a country that overflow with life, breath taking natural scenery, spiritual heritage and some of the world’s most beautiful beaches, diverse and colourful sights and sounds.
The evolution of Wellington College as a group of schools towards becoming the premium school of choice globally is a very exciting one. It presents an unrivalled opportunity for us to pioneer an educational environment with a true commitment to developing a global reputation based not only on a rigorous academic program, but also on the identities that distinctively define holistic education. As I am preparing for my relocation to India where I will be joining the founding team as Head of Early Years at Wellington College International Pune and to take part in the opening of our very first school in the region, I am struck by the ability of the college to have the same resonance today as it did during my very first encounter. I think this because the desire to translate a Wellington education into any community or global context remains undiminished and our relationship with The Wellington College and its values and identity continue to be a source of inspiration to our thinking and practice. This global identity has helped us to feel part of a community working for the common good of all children wherever a Wellington College exists.
I am filled with gratitude and excitement for the future and the journey I have had the privilege of sharing with Wellington so far, acquiring new perspectives from the teams of highly qualified and talented expert educators we employ, our group of schools here in China and the many unique opportunities this has presented. It is also important to mention the support and guidance we have been given by Wellington College International and The Unison Group. Both of which proved to make a significant impact on how we are continuing to bring forward our practice as the founding team in India. In envisioning Wellington College International Pune, the same aspirations and vision remain. The importance of believing in these and recognising the longevity of Wellington College cannot be underestimated. That is the worthwhile project that has never been in doubt, and I invite you to encounter it in your own context, wherever in the world it is, and make a lasting difference for your children and the families you meet along your journey.