Radley comes looking for Chinese talent

Harry Hammond, senior master of Radley College, and Vanessa Hammond, its registrar, recently talked about the school, its standards in selecting students and its cooperation.  

The prestigious British boys’ boarding school Radley College recently came to Shanghai to interview Chinese students.

The number of Chinese applicants increased to 60 this year from 38 last year, said BE Education, an organization helping Chinese students enter schools in the UK, the US and European countries.

Harry Hammond, senior master of the boys’ school, and Vanessa Hammond, its registrar, recently talked about the school, its standards in selecting students and its cooperation with the Shanghai Schools at recruitment and school fair in Shanghai.  

Harry Hammond (left), senior master of Radley College, and Vanessa Hammond, registrar of Radley College

Q: What are the advantages of boys’ schools? Why should boys enter single-sex schools?

Harry: There are good schools and not-so-good schools. I think for parents, the most important thing is to choose the good schools. There are good all-boys schools, good all-girls schools and co-ed schools. 

The advantage of all-boys schools is we think that boys and girls learn differently. Boys tend to be a little bit more naughty, usually girls work more steadily and harder. Boys need a little bit more push.

I think boys can be quite restless in class sometimes, while girls can be more forthcoming. So it’s quite good for boys to just be together to have more say.

The other thing is that outside the classroom, girls can be quite dominating in orchestra, creative writing and arts. In the orchestra, we now have boys. They might just be grade four or five in the violin. But they are in the orchestra and they get better. So they get opportunities. So all these things — our time, our energy, our resources, are invested into boys. We are not diluting our resources by having boys’ facilities and girls’ facilities.

Vanessa: I think it’s also important to know the boys see a lot of girls. We do conferences together. We some teaching with girls. We do drama weeks. We do visits. We do trips. We do a lot with girls.

The boys are not cut off from girls. And they have a lot of parties with the girls. They know how to behave with girls. They are not strange.

Q: What kind of Chinese boys are you looking for?

Harry: Radley is a very strong academic school, so fundamentally they have to be good academic students. But the other most fundamentally important thing is that students who would enjoy being in a 24/7 boarding school need to be able to get along with the other boys.

It is terribly important. We find that some boys would fit in from day one because everyone starts new. For some boys, it is very easy to mix, for some boys it isn’t. I think the ability to mix it is particularly important for the Chinese students. Obviously, a good command of English is very important and helpful.

It’s intelligence, the ability to mix, the willingness to do a lot of different things. There are so many opportunities for the boys, the music, the sports and the society.

Q: Some UK public schools are using the Shanghai math teaching system now. Do you think the change will influence independent schools?

Harry: I think there is a lot to communicate with China. That’s why we like having some Chinese boys in our classes.

Chinese children work with good academic rigor, not just in mathematics, but also other subjects as well. I think they know how to work hard and can be good at some basic skills besides learning. Another subject is knowledge. If they have that good knowledge and work hard, then we can put in the other bits. Perhaps more debating and more independent study, which I think England traditionally does better. So I think that’s learning on both sides.

Q: Is there cooperation between Radley and schools in Shanghai?

Harry: We visited a Shanghai school. It’s an excellent school. I sense that there is a good collaboration between the Chinese system and the English system. Walking around the school, I like the atmosphere, quite similar to the English schools.

Our intention is to work with it and other local schools. We intend to do some exchanges, so that we can learn from each other. I think it’s very good for the two countries to work together at such fundamental fields, such as education. It can enhance our relations in the future.

Vanessa: Already, some of our math teachers have spent some time at a Shanghai High School. So we already have some collaboration with some Shanghai schools and we very much hope they will continue.


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