A school is only as strong as its leadership and faculty, mama, which is why we were thrilled to meet the new Principal of Avondale Grammar School, the wildly accomplished Rob Stokoe, OBE! He’s got big plans for an exciting future here in Singapore!
Education is all about growth and change, which is exactly why exciting times are afoot at Avondale Grammar School! Avondale recently welcomed new Principal Rob Stokoe, while also announcing “The Avondale Vision”, a plan to move to a larger central campus by 2018 to provide an even fuller educational experience for children 3-18. We sat down with Rob to learn a bit more about his stellar educational background, how he sees Avondale growing in the future, what he likes best about Singapore so far, and why he’ll soon be meeting the Queen of England!
What is your background? Where are you from originally, and how did you get into education?
I was born in County Durham, in the North of England. I am the son of a coalminer and initially left school to follow a career as an accountant. After a few years I moved into teaching and have followed this path ever since. Why teaching? I wanted to make a difference!
I have entered classroom as a teacher, a leader, a coach, an Ofsted Inspector, an IB invigilator, as a teacher trainer in early years settings, primary schools, secondary schools further and higher education colleges- from Durham to Dubai. St Petersburg to Sydney and now Singapore.
I have recently arrived in Singapore after 16 challenging and successful years with Jumeirah English Speaking School (JESS) in Dubai. My career to date has focussed upon improving learning and teaching in every classroom I have influenced. Learning and teaching is a great double act, and yes, it can always be improved! Great classrooms and the students within them merit improvement: they are places where minds flourish and everyone is driven to do something better tomorrow than they did it today. I am very excited about the new chapter here in Singapore.
What makes Avondale special? What drew you to the school?
I believe every great school is founded upon the following: students with a willingness to learn, active and supportive parents, and educators with the drive a passion to support the growth of every child. This is the unique combination that energised my world in Dubai and the reason I chose to come to Avondale. I have been struck by the strong and supportive rapport between students, teachers and parents at the school, in particular its Positive Education Programme.
During your time at JESS the school nearly quadrupled in size, and similarly Avondale has grown from 50 to 350 students since opening in 2007, with plans to grow a lot more. What is the key to growing a school while maintaining the tight-knit sense of community for which Avondale is so well known?
Dubai has a strong ‘getting things done’ culture and I was fortune to grow JESS into a school of 2,300 students with similarly strong waiting lists. Even as a sizeable organisation we were highly regarded as a school where every child mattered. Avondale has the same ethos and core values; it has massive potential for growth, especially against the backdrop of enhanced economic ties with Australia, but most importantly the potential in every child to achieve excellence. The excellence we aspire to may exist in academic, sport or performance, as we strive to identify and tap into individual gifts, encouraging all to participate, to build confidence and to become better than they thought they could ever be. Every boy and girl is important to Avondale.
Since opening in 2007, Avondale Grammar School has operated mainly from its Phoenix Park campus. Whilst the location of Phoenix Park is excellent, the infrastructure does not have the expansion potential or the capacity to support the development of Avondale as an Australian Curriculum School. The Board is ambitious and is seeking to realise a vision for Avondale Grammar School as a quality education provider.
Beyond the provision of a challenging, supportive and stimulating learning environment our key relationship is with our parents. They trust us with the most important treasures they have and we must never forget that parents are every child’s first and enduring life-long educators.
Have you spent time in Singapore before? What do you like about it so far?
I have visited Singapore over the years and always enjoyed it. Singapore is a great vibrant city with friendly and supportive people who have helped my wife and me find our feet quickly. We are looking forward to getting to know it better over the years ahead.
My favourite thing may be the Botanic Gardens. It’s close to the school and after the sands of the Middle East it is a privilege to have such lush greenery on our doorstep!
Is it true you have recently published a book on education?
Yes! I had my first book published this year, Leaders of Learning. It’s about leadership in education and how this impacts curriculum and student growth. I decided to donate all of the proceeds to support a school for orphans in Tanzania. It made sense to me that a book focussed upon leadership and learning should offer support to the lives of young people. I also believe the gift of giving is powerful.
You are an authority on ‘Blue Ocean Thinking’. Can you tell us a little more about this?
Basically, Blue Ocean Thinking is about knowing the unique identity of your school and defining your individual future based upon continuous evolution. In a “Blue Ocean” school there is continual challenge and progress as a learning organisation, avoiding the trap of, ‘this is what we do.’ As a leader of such a school my challenge is to create uncontested space which will allow Avondale to continually evolve and to thrive as a centre of excellence.
We hear you were recently awarded an OBE – that’s so cool! What was it for? And did you get to meet the Queen?
I was stunned to be offered and thrilled to accept the award of an OBE for services to education. I am visiting Buckingham Palace at the end of the year for the official ceremony, and dearly hope to meet the Queen!
Thank you so much, Rob! To find out more about the wonderful Avondale community and the Avondale Vision for the future, click here mama!
Avondale Grammar School
318 Tanglin Road, Phoenix Park, Singapore 247979
Tel: (+65) 6258 8544