What is your background and training?
I am new to Singapore and to Broadrick, though not to EtonHouse. It is most exciting for me to be joining the school at this stage of its development as it grows into the Secondary school with students working towards IGCSEs. Being from the UK I am familiar with this examination system, having experienced it many years ago as a student prior to winning a scholarship to study at Oxford University, and then later as a parent and a school leader.
I have been a Principal since 1990 in the UK and with EtonHouse in China since 2007, with a gap of three years when I set up an all-through international school in Xi’an, China. There we gained our International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme (DP) authorisation just two years after opening, as well as authorisation to run the Cambridge IGCSE and grew rapidly to nearly 300 students. In my time with EtonHouse I have led schools to successful Middle Years Programme (MYP) authorisation and reauthorisation in the Primary Years Programme (PYP), as well as being a founding Principal.
What made you want to become a principal?
I went into education to try to make a difference in people’s lives, in the same way that an inspirational teacher made such a big impact on my life. As a teacher and principal I so enjoyed working in ex-coal mining areas for many years helping children understand that they can impact their own surroundings and lives.
More recently I have had the privilege of working with a curriculum, the International Baccalaureate, that frees up teachers to develop the skills that students need in a rapidly changing world. As a principal you have the privilege and responsibility to lead that educational development for so many more people than as a teacher.
Being a principal is a great privilege and I always seek to put the needs of the students at the centre of the decision making process. As a leader I have always been keen to build on the strengths of a school, and work in collaboration with the community of students, parents and staff. It is the strength of the relationships and the team that is the cornerstone of a good school coupled with a clear vision of the school’s direction.
What do you love about working at your school in particular?
I love the daily contact with the people – staff, parents and children – and the responsibility to lead the development of such a wonderful school as EtonHouse Broadrick.
I enjoy coming in every day to a family friendly, welcoming, happy place of learning where children learn to respect themselves and others and begin to take control of their exciting learning journey.
What is your take on ‘play-based learning’?
Play is a state of mind where the learner experiments with materials and, as the learner gets older, increasingly also with ideas and more complex concepts. This is obvous in very young children, but is really also at the basis of research and thorough methodology. This experimentation of putting ideas or actions together in different ways from the meaning that the learner has already constructed does, I believe, define creativity.
Of course, we all need a thorough base in skills and readily accessible knowledge to make that play/experimentation meaningful. Creativity based on well grounded knowledge can be argued as the most important characteristic as our children grow into such a rapidly changing world.
What is your favourite game or activity to do with students?
I love working in situations where the children can contribute and develop their own ideas – Maths investigations can be a great way of opening up thinking. I remember some 6-year-olds experimenting with odds and evens and pairing up pegs. One boy, Stuart, argued in his group that 2, 6, 10, 12 were both odd and even as they had odd numbers of pairs. The class, after much discussion, agreed with him and created a new set of numbers called Stuart numbers – it led all their thinking onto a much higher level and shows the creativity of thought that is in all of us, maybe in different areas of the curriculum. I think this class were thinking like career Mathematicians.
What is one fun fact about you?
I really enjoy going out running to ease the intensity of work. In China I used to run past most people, but in Singapore most people run past me!
What is it like to lead a school that has such a culturally diverse community?
It is wonderful to be in such an internationally-minded community. Of course this has not just come about by us being culturally diverse, but by actively celebrating and respecting our different cultures and beliefs – for example, everyone dressing up in Indian clothes for Diwali or in Chinese clothes for the Chinese New Year. As we read out our 44 nationalities at our last United Nations Assembly, so many of our children and staff stood up for more than one country where they believed they came from.
EtonHouse Broadrick is known for its dual-language programme. Why do you think it’s so important for students to be bilingual?
Being bilingual gives you access not only to other rich collaborative groups, but really opens your eyes to how others think. It challenges many of the assumptions that those of us brought up in a mono-culture might have. In trying to learn Mandarin I am understanding that many ideas in Chinese just don’t translate into English, and vice-versa.
Having a degree of proficiency in more than one language, especially from different cultures, helps you to understand others so much better and is an enriching experience. In a world where recent events and votes seem to be moving in the direction of fear, the perspectives gained from being bilingual to a lesser or greater degree are so important. Globalisation is not reversible, and the advantages for those that are bilingual are great in terms of developing personal or business relationships.