Epsom College in Malaysia
National Curriculum for England/ IGCSE/ A Level; ages 3-18; co-ed; day and boarding; independent; privately owned; 500 students; south of Kuala Lumpur
- Epsom College in Malaysia
71760 Bandar Enstek
- T +60 6 240 4188
- E admissions@eps…college.edu.my
- W www.epsomcollege.edu.my
- Lower School Ages: 3-11
- Lower School Sexes: Co-ed
- Lower School Numbers: 100
- Senior School Ages: 11-18
- Senior School Sexes: Co-ed
- Senior School Numbers: 500
- Total School Numbers: 600 boys and girls
- Teaching Language: English
- SEN: SEN considered case by case
- Boarding: Available
- Uniform: Yes
- School Year: The academic year is from August/September to end June, with three academic terms per year
- School Hours: 8.00am - 5.00pm
- Annual Fees: Day RM 48,000.00 - RM 103,440.00; Boarding RM 55,440.00
- Fee Information: 1) The Mouratoglou Tennis Programme - RM 12,000.00 - RM 84,000.00 per year; 2) The ECM Golf Academy - RM 24,000.00 - RM 84,000.00 per year; 3) The La Liga Football Academy - Academic Year 24-25 - RM 15,000.00 per year
- Religion: Non-denominational
- Memberships: COBIS, CIS, FOBISIA, AIMS, BSA, Round Square
- State/Independent: Independent: privately owned (individual/corporation)
- A levels
- IGCSE (International General Certificate of Secondary Education)
- National Curriculum for England
- None (school may be licensed, or may be "inspected" by its own owner, but it is not independently accredited or inspected by recognised agency or organisation)
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What The Good Schools Guide International says
Since 2021, Matthew Brown BSc (physics with medical physics, Swansea University). Arrived in Malaysia fresh from his homeland, Wales, where he previously held headships in local state schools followed by a role with the local education authority. Joined Epsom in 2019 as deputy head before taking on the headship two years later, which he says gave him an excellent feel for the school’s potential.
Tall, slight and fizzing with a lively, infectious energy, he is on a mission to put the school on the map. Says he doesn’t expect families to rely on the ‘mythical reputation’ of the Epsom College brand name – refreshingly there isn’t even a whiff of British arrogance about him. And, while its link to the famous UK school means it can draw down on decades of experience and excellence, he is aware that they must earn the respect of families through the day-to-day delivery of a quality education.
Has a surprisingly spartan office but as he says, ‘If you are looking for cosy corridors, you won’t find them here’ - this is a purpose-built campus not an historic building several centuries old. He continues, ‘We are more than just a façade – yes, we have a good connection to a high achieving, long established school in the UK but there is a reality to it.’ Says what counts is inbibing students with confidence and integrity as well as academics.
Has an excellent relationship with parents (a mere click of his fingers and he conjured up a queue of families wanting to sing the school’s praises) and students (‘he’s like a father figure to us’) effortlessly commanding respect at the same time as getting stuck in. As a group of parents neatly put it, ‘money can’t buy a head like him’.
Wife, Kate, is director of admissions and their two sons have graduated from the school and are now attending UK universities.
Offers taster sessions for prospective students to ‘get a feel for whether this is the kind of place you want to be in’. Successful they are too, with two or three running every week - admissions is on the up.
Age-appropriate assessments and previous school reports taken into account. Fast working admissions team aims to turn assessments and applications around as quickly as possible for families keen to get going.
In 2023, 91 per cent of leavers went to the UK eg Imperial College London, King’s College London, London School of Economics, University of Edinburgh, Manchester University etc. Some also to the US (eg UCLA, Michigan State), Canada (eg University of Toronto), Australia (University of Melbourne) as well as Asian destinations (eg Hong Kong University of Science and Technology and National University Singapore etc).
Full scholarships achieved to eg King’s College London and Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. Schools credits its programme of extracurricular activities and community programme as much as its academics. Is aiming for increased success with sports scholarships to the US with its tennis, golf (and soon to be soccer) academy
A small number of students leave to the UK for sixth form, largely due to historical family ties with specific schools, but are swiftly replaced. Head says, ‘What we are offering is very much the same experience but closer to home.’
In 2023 at A level, 71 per cent of students achieved at least one A*/A grade, 50 per cent achieved A*/A in two out of three subjects. Top performers achieved four A levels at A*/A with one celebrating five A*s.
At IGCSE in the same year, 93 per cent achieved at least one A*/A, 52 per cent at least three A*/A and an impressive roll call of 13 students achieving a clean sweep of A*/A across all subjects (from a cohort of 50).
In 2019, the last comparable year of grades pre-Covid, 43 per cent of all A level grades scored A*/A and 65 per cent achieved A*-B.
Teaching and learning
A ‘full and long’ school day sees students work hard Monday to Friday. Saturday school now axed so students have time to go home or take part in the many activities in boarding houses. School explains it works hard on ‘developing people’ and offers a breadth of experience not just academics. Families say the classroom pressure ‘seems relaxed’ but that they achieve great results. ‘I have seen wonders, teachers work really hard and even normal children start to excel,’ said one parent.
STEM and maths are undeniably popular, especially come A level where further maths, maths, chemistry and economics reign but this is seen largely as a result of family preference and school is quick to point out that other subjects (eg history, psychology) still go ahead even with small numbers. At IGCSE, the spread is ‘better’ with some DT, music and art in the mix - more reflective of its broad and balanced curriculum, says school. Maths is taught using the globally recognised Singapore math approach and Mandarin classes run daily in both prep and senior school. As rigorous as this all sounds, we spotted plenty of healthy discussion and debate between students and teachers in the classrooms - certainly no rote learning.
Parents say teacher support is ‘really good’ with tutors on duty in the evening for extra support and that the connection between teachers and students is a standout in senior years.
In prep (ages 3-11), they say there is ‘lots of encouragement’ and an ‘amazing personal touch’, and that confidence levels quickly soar. Classrooms are light and bright with pupil artwork hung all around, as you might expect. The prep school sits in its own section of the school building with a more homely vibe and spills out onto a lovely play area with a climbing frame and plenty of safe and secure space for pupils to let off steam.
We were a little surprised by the lack of soft furnishings or plants etc to soften up corridors in more senior years but perhaps students are too busy rushing between lessons and activities. That said, the sixth form centre is clearly a place to stop and take stock, with plenty of seating and collaboration areas as well as a TV screen running with the latest news headlines and posters promoting the daily student workshops and sixth form talks on eg university applications.
The well-stocked, whole school library offers more study areas and quiet reading spaces and plenty of guidance on reading recommendations.
Learning support and SEN
School has a ‘good support system’ and inclusive classrooms for those with additional learning needs. Parents told us, ‘If you are driven academically of course you will do well, but if you are not academically gifted then Epsom is still the perfect place.’
The academically gifted certainly thrive. Aside from the impressive number of multiple A* results, some Malaysian students are on a fast-track A level programme, completing their courses in just 15 months. Offered to local students to join the school after the completion of their national SPM certificate (equivalent of IGCSEs in year 11) in March and effectively straight into the remainder of the first year of A levels. Limited to maths and sciences only.
A direct effect of closed borders during Covid years resulted in the dialling up of language support to enable greater accessibility. School’s English Mandarin immersion programme for pupils in prep school is heralded as enabling proficiency and fluency in either (or both) languages. Intensive English academies are run for 10–14 year olds in school breaks.
The arts and extracurricular
‘We are careful not to just create study machines,’ says head, ‘we want students to have wider interpersonal skills, to be people that others are going to want to work with in the future.’ Every student is encouraged to try new things, to take part in choral competitions, societies etc. Parents told us: ‘They are given the chance to go on stage and perform, to get over stage fright.’ ‘Epsom allows children to be all-rounders – my son is a good drummer and artist.’
The school building is evenly split, one half academics, one half creative with a huge art room, DT workshop and fabulous exhibition space so there is no doubting the facilities, yet there is also no denying that take up of these creative subjects diminishes in the most senior years.
Career enhancing workshops and events shine strong eg a lunchtime presentation from the CEO of Petronas etc. ‘Being Epsom, the students get to attend very exclusive events, the school leadership has access to the big guns, and this is reflected in the opportunities for our children.’
Fifty acres of land, an hour outside of central Kuala Lumpur, affords the perfect opportunity to roll out the sport fields and facilities galore, and as a growing school it continues to build depth within teams. Indoor facilities (eg basketball court, gym and dance centre) were all in good use on our visit. Team sport runs in termly cycles, meaning students get to try their hand across a range over the full year – some mutters from students that they wished they could play their preferred sport year-round but the bigger picture is one of trying new talents.
Elite sport programmes and facilities excel. Two national squash players are lauded, and the tennis and golf academies enable senior athletes (year 7 and above) the opportunity to play 20 hours a week alongside their academic timetable. The Mouratoglou Tennis Programme supports 40 young players (including the top players in Malaysia) through its youth player and professional development programmes and the purpose-built tennis complex boasts ITF-compliant indoor (including two clay) and outdoor training courts, unrivalled by any other school in the country. Similarly, the golf academy offers access to a 280m driving range with 30 bays and five acres of training facilities (eg synthetic turf hitting area, fairway bunker, putting greens etc) and a growing programme of holiday development camps. A partnership with Laliga also offers onsite football coaching.
In years 6 and 7, the sport curriculum sees all students accessing these academies and facilities giving everyone a taster, while equally, in select instances, some year 5 and 6 students may be considered for elite coaching. ‘Our sport academies add a vibrancy to what we can offer,’ says head adding, ‘they also help for university and scholarship applications.’
The boarding programme mirrors that of the UK mothership down to (separate girls’ and boys’) houses bearing the same names (Carr, Propert etc) and structured with house masters/mistresses, matrons and tutors etc. Most students (from year 5 and above) board with an even split between full and weekday (Monday – Friday) boarders. While the houses are each similar in set-up (shared rooms and bathrooms, common room, music practice room, snack station etc) they all have a different feel. One is the ‘sporty house’ and another the ‘academic one’, we heard. When moving up from prep, the senior boys move into senior houses (girls’ houses are mixed prep/senior) and while students can state a preference, school makes the final decision.
The boarding programme is a big part of school’s appeal – many families are ‘expecting to send their children overseas to university’ so see this as an excellent launchpad. ‘Boarding gives them confidence,’ parents told us. ‘I’m happy they are in such a good place’, ‘the best thing are the friendships they make, it feels like family’ and ‘my child wants to stay!’ were just some of the glowing reports we heard.
Boarding is a further opportunity for school to support personal development and leadership skills. The children determine how the house budget is spent eg whether the common room has a sofa or a fridge. Year 13s privileges include having their own common room - ‘Some of us even sleep there!’
Ethos and heritage
Opened in 2014 as the first and only offshoot of Epsom College in the UK, in partnership with a network of Malaysian Old Epsomians (including Tony Fernandes, founder and CEO of Air Aisa). Seen by parents as a very timely move as restrictions on local Malaysians attending international schools were positively shifting and interest was piqued. ‘The name played a big role,’ a few parents admitted, though increasingly families are now drawn as the result of personal recommendation.
While the shared educational values, school policies and lingo match that of the UK school (prep not homework, sixth form not year 12 and 13, winter camps etc), they are still consolidating the relationship. A few teachers have crossed the divide and a couple of ‘gappies’ (Epsom college UK leavers on a gap year ahead of university) come each year but there is no formal movement of students between the schools either way. This is not a shoo-in for a space at the UK school for, say, sixth form.
The campus is in a prime position close to KL’s international airport (Air Asia’s hub, naturally) for scooping up families from across Korea, Indonesia and Myanmar etc and local Malaysian families who want the boarding element that most of the other international schools in KL can’t offer. The immediate area doesn’t offer a huge amount other than a small local shopping precinct (which year 12s and 13s are allowed to visit on weekends) and there is a sense that the buildings and grounds are still bedding in with landscaping yet to mature. It’s a growing school and will benefit from more students to fill the huge space.
A British boarding school ethos avails – house competitions, prefects (our student guides were thrilled at their prefect privilege of using the lift), house ties etc – lived out in an Asian way eg shoes off at your house door. A perfect balance for those wanting a British education without being in the minority or too far from home. School’s strength lies in its adaptability - to retain enough British cache without doggedly sticking to a traditional formula eg introducing weekday boarding, sporting academies and its English learning programmes.
A whole school dining hall, with prefects on lunch duty - lose a game of ‘rock, paper, scissors’ with them and you might find yourself at the back of the lunch queue! The Container Café – literally a coffee shop made from a shipping container - is hugely popular, though students told us they would still like to see more snacks.
Pastoral care, inclusivity and discipline
‘When there are problems, school always opens its door and works together with us,’ we were told. Other parents say the ‘magic’ lies in the experience of being part of a house family. Head laughingly said, ‘Occasionally we have to break up a re-enactment of a battle for disputed Korean or Japanese territory,’ but for the most part there is a culture of kindness and care – discipline is rarely an issue.
Our guides were shining examples of the type of young men you’d want your own son to become: polite, engaging, and inquiring, with a healthy sense of mischief. Both admitted it was daunting on first arrival (having previously been in local schools) but they quickly made friends and are now proud of having them from across so many countries. Head no doubt sets the agenda for an inclusive and welcoming atmosphere leading assemblies of the week based around topics eg ‘being kinder than necessary’.
Pupils and Parents
Half of all students are Malaysian, the other half largely from other countries across Asia eg Japan, China, Indonesia, though there are more than 29 nationalities within the whole student cohort. School says it ‘provides a holistic education for students from all over the world.’
A close-knit parent community, especially in prep years and we spoke to plenty of parents of older, boarding students who feel very connected to the school even from afar. The parent association works admirably hard, wanting to be part of the school’s success eg putting on a Halloween social for those nearby, Zoom meetups for those not. Parents enjoy the invitations onto the campus - to be a part of the British education they are affording their children.
‘It is expensive – in the top 10 in Malaysia - but when you look back it is worthwhile.’ School assures us that if you took the boarding fees out of the equation, it is cheaper than other top tier international day schools in central KL.
The last word
Excellent results, boarding options and a growing programme to support talented sport stars. For families looking for a top-notch education in line with a British-style boarding school approach and within easy access of KL international airport, Epsom College Malaysia is nailing the formula.
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