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Tom Wingate

Owner of the Wingate School, Mexico

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Biography

​​What I learnt at Leeds Trinity was hugely influential in my career. I built on those foundations, sure, but the foundations have to be solid. My studies taught me resilience and that great teaching is a long process and not a moment.


Over the last fifty years, Leeds Trinity University has developed a reputation for excellence in teacher training. You'll find our teacher training alumni in schools across the UK - and the world - and we're extremely proud of the impact they're making in their teaching careers.  


We love hearing about our alumni's career successes, and we recently heard some incredible news from Tom Wingate, who studied his PGCE in Secondary English at Leeds Trinity in 1981. In 2016 Tom opened a family-run British international school in Mexico City called The Wingate School. The school's principal founders are Tom and his wife, Elena Espinosa de los Reyes de Wingate (pictured above). The school has two locations: a Primary School in Virreyes that opened in August 2016; and an Early Years, Primary and Secondary School in Interlomas, Huixquilucan , that opened in August 2017.

Since graduating from Leeds Trinity University, Tom has had 30 years of teaching experience in schools around the world, including the City of London School, Wesleyan School in Atlanta, and Greengates IB School in Mexico City, where Tom has lived on and off since 1986.  

The Wingate School is a co-educational day school with a focus on the "intellectual, emotional, social and moral development" of each child.  The school will follow the British Early Years Foundation Stage standards for children up to the age of five. This will be followed by the International Primary Curriculum, the Cambridge IGCSE for 14-16 year-olds and, finally, the International Baccalaureate Diploma for 16-19 year-olds. 



The site of the Primary School in Virreyes, which opened in August 2016


A classroom inside Primary School at Virreyes​


Leeds Trinity's Alumni Officer, Brett Arnall, caught up with Tom to find out more about the school, as well as his time at Leeds Trinity. 

What are your fondest memories from your time at Leeds Trinity?


My fondest memories are of the thoughtful teachers. For example, Mr Starbuck and Dr Colin Wood.  I also recall some very interesting fellow students. Naturally, I remember cutting my teeth teaching in the local schools! This was an experience not so fond in the memory, but it was totally necessary nonetheless. 

Speaking as 'a Southerner,' Leeds was a great part of the country to be in. Going on a bus out of town suddenly drystone walls and, beyond them, vivid green fields appear. It was almost like being inside your very own Philip Larkin poem – that moment of recognition! Visiting those Fountains Abbey ruins for a day out was awesome, too! 

Last, but definitely not least, there was an excellent and most accessible pie and chip shop at the bottom of the hill! (I never reached Harry Ramsden's.)

How did your time with us support your career?


What I learnt at Leeds Trinity was hugely influential in my career. I built on those foundations, sure, but the foundations have to be solid. My studies taught me resilience and that great teaching is a long process and not a moment. 

When the school open in Virreyes, what was your target number of students? 


It is small as it is an urban, residential area – only ever as high as 100 children – so we expected some 30 pupils just to start. Children joined in the year as they and their families entered the country. 

What were your aspirations for the first year?


To end the year standing! It's such a complex and exhausting process setting up a school. Seriously, to answer the question, that the children end the school year knowing that they have been cared for, have respected each other, and, of course, have learned a lot in an inspiring way. I here refer to our motto: "Strive, Learn, Serve". So, the wish is that the children understand it more and more. Naturally, the ultimate aspiration of an educator is that the child gets up in the morning and really wants to go to school.

What has been the response so far from the Mexican community about the school?


There has been a very positive response. In terms of applications, about 50% Mexican, 50% families with overseas backgrounds. And applications continue, of course. Having the USA across the long Northern border, plus Mexico being part of NAFTA, means that for many Mexicans, learning English is a key skill.

How long did the planning take to launch the schools?


In my mind, many years. Focused planning and gritty work? Just over two years. Unsurprisingly, the larger purpose-built campus at Huizquilucan – to open its doors in August 2017 – has been the greater challenge.

What has been especially gratifying is seeing how many of my old pupils (from a Mexico City British school where I worked a long time – with four contracts since 1986) have come to our presentations for parents. Now with families of their own, they are looking for options. In fact, I cannot think of a single presentation, and there have been many, where ex-pupils have not been represented. Names fade; but faces are engraved in my brain! It is so good to see them again.

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