The start of the new school year is always a busy time – and it’s especially the case at Malvern College Hong Kong, where Paul Wickes is beginning his tenure as the school’s new Headmaster. We asked him about his move to HK and the new role, and also found out about the Sichuan-Hong Kong Exchange with Malvern College Chengdu. Plus, results are in! Have a look at how well Malvern students performed in the last school year.
Paul, as we speak, you’ve just arrived in Hong Kong to take up the Headmaster position at Malvern. What role have you moved from?
I was Head of Urca Site at The British School in Rio de Janeiro for five years. It was a fantastic opportunity because it drew on my previous experience with Malvern College UK where I was a senior housemaster for 12 years, and also my previous international experience in running a school.
Rio is a beautiful city and the people are very warm and welcoming. I had the advantage of speaking the language, having worked in Portugal for six years immediately after university. The school enjoyed plenty of success while I was there; we had our best ever academic results and were able to innovate with the curriculum. I’m now very excited at the opportunity of moving here to Malvern College Hong Kong.
Tell us a bit about your Malvern background, including working with Dr Lister.
I seem destined to follow him around! I was a house tutor when he was a housemaster and senior housemaster at Malvern College in the UK. When he was promoted to deputy head, I became housemaster, and then senior housemaster. Dr Lister then came here to found Malvern College Hong Kong, and I went to Rio. Now that he has become Regional Director of Malvern College International Asia, I’ve been given the opportunity of following him and his leadership at MCHK.
What’s your favourite thing about being a Head of School?
It gives you a unique overview of the school. By drawing upon your previous experiences and your ability to think strategically, you can share a vision with the senior management team, the governors and all the stakeholders and work together with them to move the school forward. At the end of the day, though, the most important thing – the only thing that really matters – is student outcomes. If you can see that vision come to fruition while also improving student outcomes as Headmaster, it is tremendously fulfilling.
What are some things you’re looking to achieve at MCHK?
Dr Lister established a really strong foundation for the first five years and my mandate as the new Headmaster is to take it to the next level. Looking at the profile of the school, our Sixth Form is relatively small; our first cohort has only just gone through, so I want to build on this size so we’ve got more and more students getting an IBDP education. And I also want to ensure that the Malvern ethos and qualities underpin everything we do on a day-to-day basis.
What are your first impressions of the campus?
I love the library – not only the design and architecture, but the fact that different areas are dedicated to the MYP and IB, with their own specialised resources. It’s also really welcoming; the kind of place where students will want to read, and where they can relax. There are special performance spaces too: The Rogers Theatre, which shares the name of the theatre at Malvern College in the UK; and the Auditorium. And I think we’re very blessed in terms of sports facilities and space in Hong Kong, from the astro-turf pitch at the top to the 25-metre swimming pool.
Are overseas trips back on the agenda now?
Yes, they are. At the end of last academic year, a group went to Malvern College Chengdu on what we call a “Malvern Mingle”. I’m really keen as Headmaster to promote and accelerate this interaction between the various Malvern schools internationally, from the newly opened Malvern College in Tokyo, to Chengdu and Malvern College UK. The latter now runs a Summer School with bespoke courses such as Malvern Explorers, Malvern Experiences and Malvern Engineers – I know some MCHK pupils were there in July, taking advantage of these culturally exciting and academically challenging experiences.
So there are lots of opportunities, and being able to benefit from the family of Malvern schools is a unique thing. Our purpose is to make sure pupils are well-rounded, grounded and confident so that when they move on to university or in their careers and personal lives, they’ve got all the skills they need to succeed. Obviously, academic rigour is essential – we know how important a really top IB score can be in securing your future, and a key part of our offering is achieving world-class university placements – but at the same time learning things like collaboration, critical thinking and risk taking are vital in the emotional and social development of students as well.
You mentioned risk taking; what’s your approach to this and to resilience and making mistakes?
We will all take risks at some point in life. I’m taking one now: I have just left a fantastic job in Rio to join my colleagues here in Hong Kong – but it’s a calculated risk based upon an understanding of the role and an understanding of my personal nature and my ability to work in different places and with different kinds of people. We can’t avoid risks in life, and we need to be equipped to deal with them.
I also like to emphasise the ability to manage disappointment; I think this should be part of the curriculum in every school. Life isn’t easy; you won’t get everything you want – you might miss your first choice of university or be overlooked for a promotion, or a relationship won’t work out. We give our children everything we possibly can to nurture them because we love them, but at the end of the day, life is tough and I don’t think we should hide that. We need to expose children to that – obviously in a kind and safe environment – and allow them to find their own way.
How are you enjoying your time in Hong Kong so far?
After an exciting Latin American experience, I’m really embracing the move here. The physical beauty of Hong Kong is well known, of course, and I’m looking forward to exploring the outdoors on the mountain trails. It’s also been exciting to discover all the different types of food, like dim sum – I’m just not very good with the chopsticks, so I’m going to have to work on that!
More than anything though, I’ve really been impressed by the people, and how incredibly hospitable and helpful they’ve been. When you’re wandering around with your phone trying to follow a map and get your bearings, it makes a big difference to know that you’re amongst people who are genuinely warm and friendly.
More Malvern News
# The Malvern Mingle in Chengdu
As a member of the Malvern family of schools, MCHK maintains close connections with other campuses, including holding a Sichuan-Hong Kong Exchange with Malvern College Chengdu (MCC). This summer, the “Malvern Mingle” was officially launched, with students from MCC coming to Hong Kong for a week of classes and activities, from art to concert rehearsals and swimming parties.
Each MCC student was paired with an MCHK pupil who acted as a guide and study partner with the aim of fostering lasting friendships between the schools. In a reciprocal week in late June, MCHK pupils visited Chengdu where they discovered ancient Shu culture, from Sichuan opera to embroidery, learning about the Three Kingdoms, worship rituals, the Tea Horse Ancient Road and more, with pupils from MCC acting as study partners for those from MCHK.
# Results are in!
MCHK enjoyed outstanding results in the IB MYP Programme this year, with a 99.5 percent pass rate, and 60 percent of Malvern pupils scoring 45 points or higher out of a possible 56. The average of 44 points was well above the world average of 37.56. Equally outstanding was the school’s first cohort of IBDP pupils at Malvern, with an impressive 50 percent scoring 40 points or higher, including an individual score of 44 out of 45. The overall average of 39.4 points was again well above the world average of 30.24 points. Additionally, 50 percent of pupils earned the Bilingual Diploma.
The class of 2023 has successfully applied to programmes across 12 countries and regions, from the prestigious World Bachelor in Business (WBB) programme to courses in law, medicine and more at Imperial College London, the University of Edinburgh, the University of British Columbia and elsewhere. Over 85 percent of pupils were admitted to their top-choice programme/university.
Malvern College Hong Kong is at 3 Fo Chun Road, Pak Shek Kok, New Territories.
This article first appeared in the Autumn 2023 issue of Expat Living magazine. Subscribe now so you never miss an issue.
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