The Rugby School Thailand ‘sandbox’

We caught up with our School Principal, Mr Bruce Grindlay, to discover more about our new school sandbox scheme.

What is a ‘sandbox’?

The term sandbox is commonly used for testing software and technology. In a more global context, a sandbox is an isolated environment that enables users freedom to test a scenario without affecting the environment around it. Phuket recently launched a successful sandbox scheme to reinstate international tourism on the island and it is this model that inspired our own School sandbox proposal.

Why is RST opening like this?

The sandbox scheme is the only way we can open for students at the moment. The government has closed all school sites in Thailand while the country navigates its biggest wave of COVID. By creating a sealed ‘bubble’ with rigorous safety measures and 18 day sandbox periods, we have been able to invite students back to School as boarders.

How has RST been allowed to open, when others haven’t?

There are 258 international schools in Thailand and we’re one of five that have been given permission to have boarders back on-site. Most notably, we are one of the only schools that has been allowed to invite students back with face-to-face teaching – others are all still completely online. This allowance is largely thanks to our campus, where our international teaching staff live on-site. We have the space and set-up (as a boarding school) to bring large numbers on-site and still operate with all the necessary COVID safety precautions. 

How will it work?

All staff and students in the boarding bubble are required to take PCR and antigen tests before arrival and weekly antigen testing during the sandbox. Inside the bubble, our students will be divided into three Houses (much like our usual House system), which will indicate where they live and what group they primarily do evening and weekend activities with. During an initial five-day safety period in each sandbox, the Houses cannot mix; providing there are no confirmed or suspected COVID cases by day six, all the students can start socialising with each other in bigger ‘whole bubble’ events.

What is life like for students in the sandbox?

Life in the sandbox bubble is very similar to our usual boarding school experience – which was recently awarded COBIS beacon status for excellence. The highlight for many will be the face-to-face teaching (imagine saying that back in 2019!) as we’ll be one of a handful of schools in Thailand offering that. Beyond academic lessons, the boarding bubble students will enjoy sports and co-curricular activities, with enriching evening entertainment too. This includes everything from special lectures, to fancy dress, film nights and barbecues.

On the weekends, when some students may find the distance from home harder during the sandbox, we have devised a dynamic programme with a balance of downtime and fun. Casual brunches and morning swims will move on to activities such as cooking in the wild (at our Outdoor Education Centre), ‘Bubble-ympics’, paddleboarding or movie making. Our co-curricular provision was also awarded COBIS Beacon status for excellence, so the team here know how to create an enjoyable yet enriching variety of options.

What happens to the rest of the students still learning online?

Any Year 7-13 students that opted not to join the bubble will continue online learning as usual. The same applies to all students from Pre-Nursery up to Year 6. The boarding bubble set-up will mean that the seniors will have hybrid lessons whereas the rest of the School will receive the online provision we currently have in place, which is almost entirely live lessons taught via Zoom, with tutor groups and additional support where needed. The majority of our students are not in the bubble, so the online teaching is still a huge focus and standards will remain very high.

"We are delighted by the approval of our ambitious new school sandbox scheme, which we hope will offer a benchmark to fellow international schools. It is our aim to lead schools across the country into fully reopening very soon."
Bruce Grindlay
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