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Homecoming - Meet Our New Principal

23 December 2014

New BISS Pudong Principal Lesley-Ann Wallace is no stranger to Shanghai, or to The British International School Shanghai, having been founding Primary Principal of our sister school in Puxi in 2005. Lesley-Ann has now returned from four very successful and extremely warm years in the United Arab Emirates and is eager to start her new role and with big plans for 2015.

Firstly, how are you coping with the cold following your relocation from Abu Dhabi and the balmy winters there?

I have to admit it’s a little harder this way round, 4 years in Abu Dhabi meant our winter wardrobe was non-existent but now we have hit the markets and the whole family is fully equipped in hats, ear muffs and a selection of scarves!!

How different is this move from the one you made to Shanghai way back in 2005? Has much changed? Or has your attitude changed?

I was a little culture shocked when I arrived first time and questioned whether we had made the right decision but this time so clearly feels like coming home , the little things which may have irritated me in the past now make me smile knowing I am somewhere that feel so right for my family. I’m also more confident in trying out my limited Mandarin skills.

What attracted you to pursuing your career in education away from the UK? Did you travel much as a child?

I grew up with my father in the oil industry and he worked and travelled the world whilst my Mum and I stayed at home. When I had the chance to work, first as a camp counselor in the States, and then as an au pair in France as a student, I seized it and was heavily supported by my parents. I was keen to move straight overseas when I graduated, but thankfully some fantastic advice ensured I developed my teaching and leadership skills in the UK first and then when the time was right. I took that first step and never looked back.

BISS Pudong is a truly international school, with up to 60 nationalities represented at any time… How do you think the education here equips children from each of those national groups to thrive both while here and when they return home or move on?

Our students develop into truly open-minded global citizens, with the right balance of confidence and self-assurance without arrogance. Their view of the world is only enhanced through the experiences they pick up. The resilience they develop assists future transitions whether it is a move back home or to another destination. Of course, our school is not just a stand-alone school but a member of the Nord Anglia Education family of schools. With 31 schools around the world, a Nord Anglia Education school is the natural next step for any of our families if they are lucky enough to locate to one of our global destinations. Our distinctive features, such as the Global Classroom connecting students together from our 31 schools and our Nord Anglia University connecting staff, ensures for a smooth transition.

With third-culture children of your own – children born and who have lived in countries different to their parents’ native countries – does it give you greater insight into what expat parents are looking for in their children’s education?

Obviously being a parents of two children myself I see things through the eyes of a parent, recognise the challenges, the struggles and share many of the worries that we as parents have when we make the decision to take our children away from their family and move overseas. Like every parent giving my two children the best possible start in life, which means a high quality education, is what drives me.

Speaking of third-culture children, our annual International Week celebrations including the International Food Fair and Parade of Nations in October gives our families the chance to celebrate where they’re from and share their culture. That sometimes means that children who’ve been largely raised in a different country opt to represent that country instead of the one on their passport. What country/countries will your family represent?

This is an interesting one and no answer is the same from year to year! Last year my daughter represented China, while as my son wore his Ireland football shirt in honor of his Dad’s heritage and ancestry in County Cork. For me and my husband, we stay true to England although different parts; by my accent you will tell I am a true North Eastern girl (although not a Newcastle supporter) and Birmingham for my husband.

If you had to give your five top goals for the next six months, what would they be?

  1. That every one of our Year 13 students reaches the university of their choice
  2. Know my way around the building without asking for help!!
  3. Parents to feel that they can recommend this school to others because we deliver on everything we say we do and more
  4. Pick up the rusty old Mandarin to have a quality conversation with my amazing driver Yong
  5. Get the dust of my running shoes and be back to running at least one 10K a week!

You’ve done the full circuit, so to speak – from Shanghai to Abu Dhabi and then back again. What did you take with you from Shanghai to Abu Dhabi that you couldn’t live without… and what have you brought from Abu Dhabi to Shanghai?

Furniture lots of it – designed it, made it and shipped to Abu Dhabi, and now it’s in a container on its way back!!  My one struggle at the moment is gluten free foods being gluten intolerant, so I arrived with a suitcase of goodies to see me through. Not having Waitrose like we had in Abu Dhabi will take a little bit of getting used to again, good job the kids could live on dumplings all day every day!