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  • Writer's pictureRed Dot Consulting

Meet Paul Friend, Principal of North London Collegiate School (Singapore)

Updated: Jul 1, 2021

In this issue of Education Matters, we meet with Paul Friend, Principal of North London Collegiate School (Singapore) to hear all about the ethos of this newly opened international school.


What was your journey to NLCS Singapore?

I’ve got an expat story which is all too typical! My education career started way back when I was teaching maths in the UK, I moved through becoming a Head of Maths first in state schools then in the independent section where I also gained experience as a Boarding Housemaster. And then I thought, I’ll take two years out, have an experience and then head back to that normal life. That was 22 years ago, I’ve been overseas ever since.

My first international experience was at the very first UK independent school to be franchised overseas, Dulwich College in Phuket in Thailand. I was the Assistant Head (Head of Boarding) there, and then moved onto my first Headship. In my 17 years as a Head my journey has taken me through Phuket, Zambia, China twice, latterly as the Headmaster of Dulwich College in Shanghai, then onto South Korea as Head of North London Collegiate School (NLCS) in Jeju and now here in Singapore.

What drew you to first NLCS Jeju and then NLCS Singapore?

It’s very interesting because if I talk to NLCS colleagues, we all recognise that there is a very particular ethos and focus to NLCS schools and it is very common to move into an NLCS school and to be reminded of why you came into the education profession in the first place. There is a real sense of being re-energised. It is exhilarating to work in a school where its ethos is really genuinely placed at the centre of everything we do.

At the heart of our ethos, is the fact that we are an academic school. We believe in academic structure, academic rigour. We believe that children in all areas of school perform to the expectations that we as educators set, so those expectations are high, whether it’s in academic work or behaviour or courtesy.

We really believe passionately in the importance of discussion and debate in learning, so our classrooms are dynamic, they’re energetic, lively. We encourage children to talk about their learning and experiences, to challenge teachers and thinking. For us, at NLCS, academic excellence is not about the outcomes, it’s about that culture in the classrooms and corridors; it’s about loving learning for the sake of learning.

How does NLCS put its scholarly approach into action?

“We give our children floors but no ceilings”

This is one of our favourite sayings and it’s really important; the idea that our children need a strong foundational knowledge and support but that we as educators don’t put any constraints in the way. For us, that concept that there are no ceilings, no constraints other than a child’s potential, interest and creativity, can lead to really great things happening; it’s about letting the children thrive and flourish with a genuine love of learning. The purpose of every lesson is about exciting the children intellectually.

We have an enrichment programme for our senior grades where there is no formal curriculum, no assessment, just two periods in the week where they learn and look at things with teachers just because it’s really great. It might be looking at Renaissance art and how it was impacted by the sociology of the time. We tap into teacher’s passions and expertise; this is the most valuable resource in our buildings.

The power in that excitement that the teacher has for their subject is so important, so we make sure that we appoint teachers who are genuine experts in their field and we invite our students not to see them as ‘their maths teacher’ but as a mathematician. This passion and inspiration is what builds an aspirational culture in all NLCS schools.

You can walk into any of the NLCS schools internationally or in London and have that same feeling, that sense of what’s important around here; it’s the academics, the enrichment and the pastoral care.

You’ve just moved into your amazing new campus, what’s been the most exciting part of that?

If I go back to August when we opened the school in a convention centre and for weeks before, we spent a lot of time thinking about how we operate in a building that’s not designed and built to be a school. Then on the morning of opening, the staff arrived, everyone knew what they were doing and where they should be, the school buses started to arrive, and the students came in. The day started and there was this immediate sense of calm. All the students were in a classroom with their teacher, getting to know each other, being productive, and the penny just dropped; school is not about the building, resources and facilities, schools are about people and relationships.

We’re now on this incredible campus with amazing facilities but it still always comes back to the teachers. Both that experience of opening the school off-site and the experience of online learning due to Covid-19 restrictions has reminded us all how important face-to-face personal interaction is; how important the eco-system in a school is.

Being on our new campus is great, we’re thrilled with our facilities and everything we can do with our amazing science labs and art rooms and so forth, but what’s really great, is walking around the corridors and seeing that the unique NLCS DNA is alive and kicking, seeing the academic lectures and societies start and building that sense of community and curiosity that lies at the heart of NLCS.

We’re excited now to watch this grow and to build that sense of ‘this is what it’s all about, this is what an outstanding education is’.


NLCS (Singapore) opened its doors to the founding cohort of students in August 2020. The school is centrally located and offers a wide array of facilities to inspire and instil a love of learning. An emphasis on an ambitious education which encourages scholarship and a love of the subject, the importance placed on pastoral care such that no pupil is without support in their time at the School, and the strength of an education which truly allows the whole personality to grow are the basis of an NLCS education. Enquire now


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