Exclusive Interview with Head of Boarding and Pastoral Care

Monday 21 May 2018

Daniel Dorrington has taught and held leadership positions in the United Kingdom and in international schools around the world over the past 15 years. Mr. Dorrington joins us after five years at Dulwich International High School Suzhou where, as Head of Boarding, he managed the transition from a Chinese to an international campus and led a large boarding team that supported over 500 boarders.

At Dulwich, he held both academic and pastoral leadership positions, achieving outstanding results in both IGCSE and A-level Geography as well as enhancing the pastoral provision across the school. He was also the school’s examination officer (IGCSE/A-levels) and has first-hand knowledge of the external exam marking system as an examiner for Cambridge IGCSE Geography.

Q: Why did you decide to join Nanwai King’s College School Wuxi? As a founding member of the school, what is your biggest challenge?

A: After more than five years at Dulwich High School in Suzhou, and as part of the founding staff there, I was looking for a new challenge. When the opportunity came along to help set up a new school with other prestigious UK and Chinese partner schools, I jumped at the chance. The biggest challenge in establishing a new school is starting from the bottom up. Everyone on the team has their own experience and policies that worked for them in their previous school and adapting these for a Chinese context has been difficult but rewarding. The advantage of being a new school is that we can make our expectations to both staff and students very clear from day one. All staff who apply for a role in a new school understand the amount work that is involved, so we are lucky to have a team of ambitious and hard-working staff from the outset, many of whom are already working hard preparing for our school while working for their current school.

Q: Chinese parents know very little about the pastoral care system. Could you share with us your understanding?

A: I’m not sure I totally agree with this statement. Whereas pastoral care might not be mentioned often in Chinese schools, all teachers care about students in their class and every school has systems in place to ensure that students are happy. The differences at Nanwai King’s College School Wuxi is that we will ensure that every student is known well by at least two members of staff, and usually far more. We will have an age-appropriate personal, social and health education programme to ensure that when students leave our school for universities overseas, they are equipped with the skills to thrive in a culturally different environment. Our team of form and homeroom tutors, managed by our housemasters and housemistresses, will track students, rewarding those who are making progress both academically and holistically, and supporting those who are not making the progress they should be.

Q: How will our school help the students adjust to the residential life?

A: We are fortunate that our boarding staff to student ratio is low and there will be lots of support for students moving into a boarding environment for the first time. Older students will be encouraged to support younger students and there will be a comprehensive range of activities each evening to keep students engaged, alongside distraction-free study time.

We have a boarding handbook that outlines our expectations to students and parents, offers advice on what to bring, and guidance on how best to settle into life away from home. Our ultimate goals are to create a home away from home, provide students with the best chance of academic success, and equip them with the skills to live independently overseas. Boarders have a huge advantage over other students when leaving China as they have already learned to survive and thrive in an academic environment with minimal parent involvement.

Q: When a student boards with the school, how can parents keep up to date with the student’s development in academic studies as well as residential life?

A: Our school management system, Engage, will allow parents to keep up to date with all aspects of their child’s school life. Many of our experienced boarding tutors speak Chinese and will contact parents if there are any issues that parents should be aware of. Boarding tutors will be available to parents at parent-teacher consultation days and they are of course welcome to contact the boarding staff through Engage.

Q: In your professional life, is there any particular event or individual that has made a significant impact on you?

A: My wife (head of expressive arts at Nanwai King’s Colle School Wuxi) and I have been involved with graduates of Dulwich in Suzhou for a number of years. We meet with them whenever we are in the UK and US and invite them back to school when they return to China. This is an incredibly rewarding part of the job as ex-students enthuse about how an international education in China is helping them to adjust to life in a different country. Our graduates would come back to talk to current students and offer advice on how to succeed and adjust.

My favourite question to ask them to answer is “if you could speak to yourself during the final two years of high school, what advice would you give yourself?” The feedback we receive reinforces the belief that we do make a difference. This is something we both hope to emulate at Nanwai King’s College School Wuxi.

Information about boarding

Q: How many students will share one bedroom? What facilities do the dormitories include?

A: There will be two students per room. Each room has at the very least a bed, desk, chair and wardrobe.

Q: How are students assigned to the different floors? Is the lights-out time different for different grades?

A: Where possible, younger students (Grades 6-7) will share a floor with students of a similar age.

Lights-out time will vary depending on grade level, but younger students will have lights out at 9.30pm and the oldest students by 10.30pm. Boarding staff are on duty after lights-out to ensure that students are not making noise and that everyone can sleep in peace and quiet.

Before and, during evening study, students will have supervised access to library and sports facilities until 9.30pm.

Q: What is the timetable for a boarding student? What will students do in the morning and afternoon outside regular study hours?

A: Boarders will wake by 7.15am and register with their boarding tutor as they leave the house before 8am. Breakfast can be taken between 7.30 and 8.15am. Boarders will be in morning registration by 8.25am.

At 4.15pm all boarders are expected to be involved in co-curricular activities at least twice a week to take advantage of the excellent facilities we have at the school. Dinner is served between 5.30 and 6.30pm.

Two hours of evening study takes place between 6.30 and 8.30pm in a quiet and distraction-free environment. At 8.30pm, boarders can return to their rooms, but are encouraged to use the library or sports facilities. Everyone is back in the house by 9.30pm.

Typical schedule for boarders

7:15am Get up
7:30-8:15am Breakfast
8:25am Morning registration
8:30am-4:15pm Lessons
4:15pm Co-curriculum
5:30-6:30pm Dinner
6:30-8:30pm Evening study
8:30pm Students are encouraged to use the library or sports facilities
9:30pm Back in the house
Q: How many staff members will be on site to manage the boarding programme?

A: We will have a minimum of four boarding tutors in residence each night and a team of eight boarding duty supervisors (two on duty each evening).

Q: What is your policy related to dorm management?

A: Our school rewards and sanctions system is mirrored in the boarding house, although not combined. Boarders unable to show respect to their peers and our staff by not following our simple rules will helped to modify their behavior by our team of boarding tutors, duty supervisors and housemasters and mistresses. Those that still find it difficult to live harmoniously with others will ultimately be asked to leave boarding.