Wanted: Secondary Heads

Take your Leadership career overseas

Secondary Headteachers are in great demand in international schools right now. British Headteachers and experienced Deputy Heads are particularly sought after because of the calibre of their leadership and teaching skills, their knowledge of the National Curriculum of England and GCE and A Level qualifications, and their experiences of Ofsted inspections. Primary leaders are also in demand.

From inner-city London teacher to international Head

Robert Graves was a Deputy Head at an inner city school in London before moving to an international school in Egypt four years ago. Since then he has been the Headteacher of Compass International School Al Khor (now the Nord Anglia International School Al Khor) and is now preparing to open the new Nord Anglia Chinese International School Shanghai (NACIS) with his wife, Sarah who has been appointed Director of Studies at the school.

Robert offers advice for school leaders considering an international school headship:

  • You need to be willing and able to embrace change.
  • It’s important to recognise that you’re coming into a business environment. This can be a real challenge for new Heads who only have state school experience to draw on. You need to be able to manage the business as well as the operational side of the school. Learning-focused heads can struggle with the business management.  While business-focused heads can lose sight of the learning. At the end of the day we are a business. Sarah and I are a good partnership in lots of ways. In her role as Leader of Learning, Sarah runs the school while I run the business.
  • It is incredibly important for Heads from the UK moving overseas to believe in leading and running a true international school – not a British school overseas; to embrace the culture of your locality and ensure your school has an international ethos.
  • In an international school, a crucial part of your job will be to embrace the locality, and to develop relationships with the community and the parents. You will need to take time to meet with them; that’s what they want.

You can read much more about Robert’s experiences as the Head in Al Khor here

Seasoned leader shares advice

New Zealand Head, Conal Atkins has been a leader at many prestigious international schools including Director of the Vienna International School, Principal of the United Nations International School in Hanoi, and Head of School at the International School of Bologna.  “It has been the most incredible experience in so many ways, personally and professionally,” he says. He offers his advice to aspiring international school leaders:

  • You will be faced with a highly diverse learning community, both in terms of language and culture. The vast majority of students attending international schools speak English as their second language.
  • Be prepared to modify your leadership and teaching skills to the community and needs of the school.
  • You must be sympathetic to the language and cultural boundaries.
  • It's important to understand that good teaching and learning, as well as leadership skills transcend curriculum knowledge. International teachers and leaders have been forced out of their comfort zone and as a result, are usually strong and motivated educators.
  • Be a risk taker, but be one prudently! There are many international schools, the vast majority are reputable but you need to do your homework and I would recommend applying through a recognised recruiting agency that can support and advise you. Or, if applying directly to the school, check to see if it holds some type of accredited status. A specialist recruitment agency will be able to help you through the interview, selection and contract negotiation process too.

For more information about applying for international leadership positions, contact Andrew Wigford (a.wigford@ticrecruitment.com) or Amy Bardsley (amy@ticrecruitment.com) or register with TIC completely free of charge.

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