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  • Outstanding Location

    Located directly on the shores of the scenic South Lake (Nan Hu), we offer your child a respite from busy city life each day.

    South Lake Campus

  • A World-Class Curriculum

    We are the only school in Guangzhou to offer your child premium access to the English National Curriculum.

    VSE - Secondary

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    Your child will be offered world-class opportunities designed to develop confidence, skill and responsibility.

    Graduation 2020

  • Highest Quality Staff

    Our teaching staff are the finest in Guangzhou. All are police verified and fully qualified with UK or international teaching experience.

    Monika Howes

  • Welcome to Guangzhou

    You won't just receive an excellent education for your child, you'll also be joining our growing international community.

    Nursery class at BSG

  • New Opportunities

    From our choir to our sports teams, every day something wonderful happens at The British School of Guangzhou.

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    Your child is our focus. Tell us about them and we'll help you make the right choices.

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5 Questions with the Principal

Mark Thomas
Mark Thomas (2 posts) Principal View Profile

Having celebrated his 60th birthday this year, Mark Thomas reflects on his career, innovation in the classroom and why he views last academic year as one of the most successful since joining BSG in 2008.

School Principal welcoming students

1. You started teaching in 1982, taking you from the UK to Thailand and China. What impact has BSG had on your life and career?

My first overseas position was as a Year 2 teacher at Bangkok Patana School in Thailand. At that time, Patana was considered to be one of the best international schools in South East Asia. I can honestly say that I learnt everything I know about teaching and leadership while at that school.

When I returned to international education as the Deputy Head of the British School of Beijing, Sanlitun, I applied a lot of the policies and practices from my time at Patana to help establish the school. It was a wonderful time to be in Beijing just 4 years before the Olympics, and as the first British curriculum school to open in the city, we did extremely well growing to 680 students and opening a second campus in Shunyi.

The company that owned the school then asked if I would be willing to move to Guangzhou to help grow their small school of 175 students. Initially, I was not keen, but came to visit in October when the weather in Beijing was already turning cold, and after meeting the staff and taking a look at the school, I agreed to accept the role of Principal.

Guangzhou was such a small school back then that it was possible to know all the students, and I thoroughly enjoyed the challenge of opening the South Lake Campus and establishing a Secondary school. There have been many obstacles and many achievements along the way, but we are now seen as the first-choice school for the majority of parents looking for international education in Guangzhou. It is hard to believe that I have now spent 18 years of my life working in China, and am entering my 14th year at BSG.

I have genuinely enjoyed every day, and for me the highlight is knowing that we really have created an environment where students come to school with a smile, enjoy their learning and also achieve excellent academic results. The final event of the year when we see the efforts of all our hard work and get to say goodbye to our wonderful graduates is always an emotional event. It really is humbling to know that we have helped these students to achieve their dreams and become such talented, well-rounded and mature young adults.

2. Education continues to evolve in a fast-changing world. How does BSG keep up with this and remain innovative? 

STEAM learning is the future and very much an important part of staying innovative in the classroom, which is why we continually promote this within each year group.

What’s great for BSG is that STEAM learning is embedded in the British curriculum, and through Nord Anglia Education, this is enhanced by a collaboration with MIT — offering students the chance to participate in activities led by the world’s top scientists.

What this means for everyday classes is, rather than just exclusive events revolved around STEAM, all students in all lessons are given the time and space to think outside the box and design solutions to real problems. From anti-gravity devices and door alarms, to breathing apparatus for Mars and space travel — this is all being taught by our experienced teachers from Nursery through to A-Level.

To harness that innovative thinking at such a young age increases their chances of academic success, and it’s truly rewarding to witness the students themselves leading innovation across school.
Principal, Mark Thomas, celebrates his birthday

3. You mentioned recently that you view last academic year as the most successful since joining BSG in 2005. What made it so poignant for you and the school?

It may seem strange for me to state that 2020-21 was our most successful year, when we were not able to take part in residential trips, allow parents into school or compete in sports competitions. However, given the challenging nature of the year, I believe that our teachers and admin staff did an amazing job, and in particular, would pick out the following highlights:

  • Successfully delivered face-to-face learning for almost 1200 students.

  • Achieving outstanding examination results – 58% A*/A (IGCSE) and 54% A*/A (A-Levels)

  • Marketing reports continue to show BSG as the most recognized international school brand in the city

  • Above-average Parent Survey results, despite pandemic restrictions, especially in wellbeing, pastoral support, personal development and the NAE offering.

  • Student retention rate remains strong in a very competitive market 

  • Council of International Schools re-accreditation report notes strengths across the school, especially in safeguarding, wellbeing, vision and academic outcomes.

  • Summer Camp and Ski Club programs launched in 2021

  • Staff positivity remained high with survey results noting the impressive support from HR and SLT.

4. 90% of teachers confirmed they’re staying with BSG for 2021/22. How valuable is this for the school and what do you think makes them stay?

Recruitment is the biggest challenge that all international schools face, and the COVID situation, with its border restrictions, has made this even more difficult. If I had to name one factor that was behind the success of BSG, it would be that we have managed to retain key staff longer than most other schools. If a teacher completes a 2-year contract then moves on, they have not had time to make much of an impact in helping to develop our school.

Fortunately, most of our key staff stay longer, with many staying for over 6 years. This is critical to help us make year-on-year improvements, and our current Vice Principal, Garry Russell, now entering his sixth year, is a great example of this.

Another major factor in retaining staff is of course Nord Anglia Education’s professional development opportunities. Nord Anglia has its own online university platform, offering courses and collaborative study throughout the year, plus an International Masters programme with King’s College London. Everything they do for our teachers is built towards retention, ensuring the 67,000+ students worldwide are being taught by the very best.

5. You’re entering an exciting phase of the school’s history with the opening of a sister school — the Nord Anglia International School Guangzhou (NAISGZ). What does NAISGZ provide for international families?

Four years ago, we visited the site of our new Olympic Park Campus in Huangpu and took the decision to build. This brand-new school provides students aged 1-10 with excellent cutting-edge facilities — a key factor of which is the link to STEAM subjects, enhancing our collaboration with MIT.

In my opinion, this will become the most popular Primary School within Guangzhou over the next 4 years, as the area around the school develops into the cities new CBD district. I am so excited to be given the opportunity to open the new campus, and am looking forward to meeting the first group of students who will get to experience this wonderful building. NAISGZ may be in a different location to BSG, but the teaching team will work closely together to ensure that we have exactly the same curriculum and policies that have made BSG so successful in Guangzhou.

Also, a major part of this is NAISGZ joins the Nord Anglia Education family of schools — a total of 72 international schools across 30 countries. This network of support will help the school excel, especially through its unique collaborations with MIT, Juilliard and UNICEF, gifting us immense opportunities in STEAM, performing arts and community projects.

I have genuinely enjoyed every day, and for me the highlight is knowing that we really have created an environment where students come to school with a smile, enjoy their learning and also achieve excellent academic results.