There are many opportunities within an International School’s academic year to have ‘new year’ experiences. There is of course, August/September, then the new calendar year in January, and very soon Chinese New Year. With so many new starts to the year and with a significant number of families new to the school this year it is perhaps important to reflect upon our journey so far, just so that we can see how far we have travelled.
Here at Dover Court International School we believe that what makes the most difference to your child’s day to day experience and their learning is the quality of their teacher. For this reason we run a coaching programme throughout the school to ensure that teachers are coached on a regular basis throughout the year. Currently, I coach teachers for about half of my week, along with weekly coaching from Mrs Kara Lebihan, Mr John Smith, Mrs Heather Rinaldi, Mrs Victoria Roussel, Mr Ian Rinaldi, Mr Simon Townsend, Miss Alison Ford and Mrs Sarah-Jane Smith. This group of senior teachers ensure that your child is receiving input from teachers who are themselves lifelong learners. I can’t think of any better design for a learning community.
Our classrooms are influenced by the approach to learning environments promoted by a world renowned tiny Italian village called Reggio Emilia. This means that they are light, are not over crowded with gaudy displays, but are mellow, relaxed and homely, whilst facilitating independent and autonomous learning. With all new equipment and furnishings, the classrooms are clean, tidy and comfortable places to learn.
Contrary to what previous generations were told about children being seen and not heard, contemporary educational research is clear that your children actually learn best when they talk. To facilitate this our staff received world class training from a leading coach from the Kagan Cooperative Learning organisation in USA. This approach to learning gives children clear guidelines to support their ‘on-task’ learning, ensuring that no one hogs the stage and that no one is able to avoid participating. Children use this approach in age specific ways throughout the whole school.
Myself and the Heads of School have just returned from Nord Anglia Education’s recruitment fair, where 11,000+ applicants vied for jobs at the 42 schools in our family. Each one of the posts we expect to be available attracted up to 100 applicants and we were able to select the very best to join us in August of this year. New teachers also join NAE’s unrivalled Nord Angia University for ongoing professional development and are now able to apply for a unique International Master’s Degree with King’s College London.
In the last year with significant NAE investment, we have been able to refurbish all our classrooms. This has included new furniture, interactive whiteboards, classroom materials including $44,000 on new reading books. We have also refurbished the libraries, cafeterias, medical centre with a sick bay opening soon, water fountains, life skills kitchen, a new $400,000 playground for Upper Primary with canopy, new bathrooms and changing spaces across the school, science lab and design technology classrooms. For the arts we have refurbished and created spaces including a new music suite of classrooms, Red Dot Radio studio, TV Studio, art room and a computer animation suite. Finally, the garden which had been a centre point of the school’s welcome area was re-designed by the original landscaper, who flew back from exhibiting at the Chelsea Flower Show in order to complete a magnificent new sensory garden designed for all students to enjoy.
In the future, Nord Anglia Education continue to put a lot of investment into Primary shared facilities with an amazing new 3 storey vertical playground being fitted behind the Year 1 classrooms to further expand our play space. We are also building a Juice Bar/Cafeteria for Secondary School, a music technology suite to deliver the Juilliard Music currculum and a drama studio to support the expansion of our performing arts programme through specialist drama teaching.
Obviously, we are all looking forward to news regarding the recruitment of a new Principal. I will be part of the panel in a couple of weeks to ensure continued commitment to the advances made in our teaching and learning. A selection of parents will also be invited to meet the candidates, as will a selection of student councillors and teachers.
This week we have a visit and Town Hall Parent Meeting with our NAE Regional Managing Director, Shaun Williams. He is coming to speak to parents about the Principal appointment and also to describe the considerable commitment that NAE has to the wonderful work that has helped to transform our school into a 21st century learning community.
So, with that brief overview of the ‘year’ past, may I wish you all a very happy Chinese New Year.
Dr Neil Hopkin, FRSA