Hiring the right teachers: Edron Academy in Mexico City

The leadership team at Edron Academy talk about approaches to international school recruitment

Eamonn Mullally, Janette Quinn and Marian Rossiter are all senior leaders at Edron Academy in Mexico City.  Eamonn is Headteacher, Janette is Head of Lower School, and Marian is Head of Secondary. Here we ask them about TIC Leadership and Recruitment Support:

TIC: Can you tell us about Edron Academy?

Edron Team: Edron is the only fully accredited COBIS school in Mexico City. It’s been in existence for 64 years now, founded by a Welshman and a Canadian called Ed and Ron, hence the Edron! It’s a school based on liberal values, founded in response to the harsh educational conditions experienced in the Welsh valleys. We moved to our current site in 1985. We now have 1,100 students aged from 2 to 18 and we’ve progressed to being the ‘go to’ school in Mexico. This year, for example, we had 200 applicants for 10 available places (above Early Years).

Eamonn Mullally, Headteacher of Edron Academy

Eamonn Mullally, Headteacher of Edron Academy

TIC: What advice would you give to people who would like to work at Edron Academy?

Edron:  Look very carefully at our school website to get a flavour of the school. Also have a look at our Facebook page because that has a lot of information and again you’ll get a feel for how wonderful, warm and welcoming our community is.

We have high expectations of all our staff; we’re on a path to excellence, and we’d love the right people to join us on that. We also want people who buy into our philosophy and vision, and with a lot of resilience. Moving overseas is a challenge; Mexico isn’t what you see in the press, but it does come with its challenges in terms of culture shock for people.

TIC: What qualities do you look for when hiring?

Edron: We think carefully about team make-up. We want excellent practitioners with excellent qualifications who will work well together. We look at a range of ages and experiences, whether that’s people directly from the UK or from other international schools. We like those we can see as potential future leaders within the school. We have a very comprehensive continuing professional development policy and provision in the school. We invest quite heavily in our middle leaders to make them the best they can be. Anybody that shows any potential, we have a very generous CPD budget.

We also want people with passion for learning, who are good team players and who will take ownership of the process from good to excellent.

TIC: Is an international school a good place for a teacher to work towards school leadership?

Edron: We would say it is. You tend to get leadership positions in international schools earlier than you would in the UK state school system. Looking at the international school teacher market, we’re expected to be growing from 500,000 people currently teaching internationally to 750,000 within the next nine years. That means there are opportunities that are going to be out there. In Dubai this year they’ve opened 21 schools. Leadership is accessible for those moving overseas, probably far more quickly than if you stayed in the UK.

Teachers do need to do their research carefully about which international schools they apply to.  As with any industry, there are very good international schools and there are some that are perhaps not so good. Teachers might want to look out for schools that meet COBIS and BSO standards, also schools that use reputable recruitment agencies like TIC, who know the international schools and what’s out there.

TIC: What have been the benefits to Edron Academy of using TIC?

Edron: It’s everything really; pre-advert planning, posting adverts, sorting the candidates, communication with the candidates. TIC makes you feel like an individual. When your TIC Manager calls you up and speaks to you, you feel supported and they know what they’re talking about. TIC will ask the questions of candidates that perhaps you don’t want to ask, or they may already know the answer. They know the schools; they certainly know our school. 100% of our candidates from the last year said that TIC guided them through the process, really supported them and was also a wealth of information. TIC also has good contacts with the school, so even if there’s a question from a candidate that they don’t know the answer to, they can very quickly get hold of us.

The key thing is making the right match for us with a teacher, and TIC’s knowledge of the school. That’s crucial. Our TIC Manager will regularly ring and check that everything’s okay. It is that personalised approach to every single teacher that they give that’s important.

TIC staff have been out to the school as well. We’ve built up a relationship. We understand what TIC needs from us, but also TIC understands us as an institution.

TIC: Edron Academy has a Service Contract with TIC. What are the benefits for an international school of a Service Contract with TIC rather than ad-hoc recruitment support?

Edron: Building up a relationship. We’re also using the UpTIC system and were one of the first users of this system as it was developed. That’s been a partnership; one where we were able to provide valuable input and feedback during development. We felt that we were valued as part of the development partnership and that our needs are being considered.

TIC: You mentioned the rising number of teachers who will be needed overseas. So what are your thoughts on Sir Michael Wilshaw’s comments about a teacher ‘brain drain’ from the UK?

Edron: Yes, many teachers from the UK are choosing to move to international schools abroad. The concern should be more about the British education system; looking at what it’s doing to its teachers in the system and why they are choosing to move abroad or leave the profession.

Working as a teacher in an international school allows you to have a work/life balance. You can have good quality professional development if you pick the right school. You can enjoy teaching with a passion, but also enjoy life after teaching as well. And it’s not because everybody is being given £70,000 tax-free salaries – that’s not what you get in Mexico! It’s important that teachers who are thinking of coming to Mexico don’t just see the salary in UK terms. The cost of living and lifestyle in Mexico is very different. Our teachers who came out last year have travelled extensively every time they’ve had the opportunity to. Our Head of History, Michael Downs, said recently: “I’ve been here for nine months and I’ve been on nine holidays! I’ve been to Guatemala, Cuba, the US, and Lima in Peru for a course. This is incredible!”

Here you do get a good quality of life with opportunities to travel and experience a different way of life and culture, and also develop yourself professionally. Budgets have been cut so much in the UK that professional development in state schools is almost non-existent in some places.  One of the biggest things we’ve found when recruiting is that, because we offer such good CPD, people want to join us.

TIC: What are the plans for Edron Academy in the near future?

Edron: We’ve got the Edron 2020 strategy and beyond. We’ve got three key core values that we’re working on, which are staff recruitment, retention and remuneration. We’re also looking at STEAM; not just STEM, but Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Maths.

Also, we’re looking at our next site. We are full and we’re locked in to where we are. We need to look at that land, what facilities we do and don’t have, and how we can enhance it. It’s a really exciting time.

We created seven new posts in the school last academic year: an International Universities Officer, we also added to the English and Maths departments, and new IT provision to the Primary. Edron is always moving forward.

In terms of staff development, we’ve just trained to do the CPML (COBIS Programme for Middle Leaders), so we’re going to facilitate that and host the course to COBIS member schools within Latin America. We’ve already got other schools in the area interested in joining us, so we’ll be able to train up all of our middle leaders.  Also, we have our first NQT with us this year, and, of course, continue to welcome new teachers to our community.

We’re very fortunate that our Board, our admin department, our staff, all of our leaders; everybody’s working together and sees what needs to be done for the school. It’s really exciting to be working in a school that is being proactive instead of reactive.

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