Leadership Opportunities at the British School Kathmandu

TIC Recruitment speaks with the Principal of TBS Kathmandu about teaching and leading in Nepal

Dr. John Moore is the Principal at The British School Kathmandu in Nepal. The school was founded in 1966, has established a strong reputation, and is attached to the British Embassy. There are approximately 500 pupils aged from 3 to 18. The school broadly follows the National Curriculum of England, using the International Primary Curriculum at Primary, and leading to IGCSE and A Levels. Here we talk to John about leadership opportunities, working at the school, and the impact of the Kathmandu earthquake on the school:

Q: Do you have any advice for people seeking leadership roles in international schools?

A: I think international education is ideal to find a leadership role. In our school, for example, the opportunities are there for more leadership positions than we have staff. We have schools in the community that are looking for advice that you can work with. If you’re a good, skilled and confident teacher looking to work with schools in Nepal, you can almost become a consultant senior leader.

We also always have the policy of promoting from within. It’s enough to come to a new country and new job, especially with your family, so in the first year we wouldn’t necessarily expect someone to be up and running for new challenges. But by their second year here, many people are looking for a new challenge and we provide it. The last three appointments to the senior leadership team have been from within. Usually Heads of Department are replaced by current teachers. Very quickly you can find yourself with a terrific career portfolio; there are opportunities galore.

Q: You’ve worked with TIC Recruitment when hiring. What do you think are the benefits of using a recruitment company like TIC?

A: TIC has been brilliant for us. It has filled gaps where we’ve had unexpected people leaving. For instance, after the earthquake it’s completely understandable that people might not want to stay in a country where there is hardship. Agencies like TIC can help fill that gap, and indeed they did. They found us teachers very quickly, but also people that understood the needs and circumstances of the school.

To have that link with an agency that understands what you’re looking for is really helpful. It cuts out a layer of bureaucracy and admin that you really don’t have time for when you need to fill gaps and problem solve quickly.

Q: What qualities do you look for in your teachers and leaders?

A: Obviously hardworking first of all. We do believe that even if you’re not the finished product, come to our school and work with our children, who are a delight to work with, and with colleagues who are very supportive, and we will help you to get better as a teacher. We look for that kind of hardworking, self-reflective approach – we’re not looking for the finished article, or anybody who thinks they’re excellent. We want people who actually want to improve.

Also, we look for someone who has a genuine interest in people and children; someone who really wants to make a difference in the community. For us, I would say we’re world class at working with our community. We work with over 20 different schools in the region and lots of different charities. It’s good to have that social conscience and love of social justice when you come to Nepal.

Q: You launched an earthquake appeal right after the Kathmandu earthquake in April 2015. Did that impact your school regarding social conscience and support?

Yes, absolutely. Straight after the earthquake, I think most of us were hardened in our resolve to work with people who are really less fortunate than us.

If you come to work at the British School Kathmandu, you’re earning a salary that is UK-linked. As a result, we are incredibly wealthy here, incredibly fortunate. I think for most people in Nepal, they went through the most horrendous period of their lives, so it made us even more determined to be a force for good. All our teachers buy in to that. So much so that a week before our school inspection, 21 of our teachers gave up their Saturday to train and work with colleagues from Nepali schools in child safety, first aid, and all sorts of strategic planning and activities.

That kind of commitment is because people do have a deep-seated desire to do a good job and the right thing here.

Q: Do you have any thoughts on what Ofsted chief Sir Michael Wilshaw has said about Britain facing a ‘brain-drain’ from teachers leaving to go to international schools?

A: I think it’s an interesting comment, and I can understand it. Obviously the British government do train teachers who are then attracted abroad. However, I think his comments were almost self-defeating; he gave us great publicity! When talking about Derby or Dubai, if I was a teacher in Derby I would be thinking I might like to teach in Dubai!

In all seriousness, we think we do a good job training teachers to go back home as better teachers. Most of us will go back; people don’t tend to stay in Kathmandu for more than 3-5 years. Most of us have roots in the UK, and we’ll go back with a much broader perspective, a greater resilience. We’re better teachers because we’ve worked with students of a really high calibre. Our teachers are fully committed to a career in the teaching profession.

I think we are creating a lovely job for teachers who will then go back home and be enthused to continue their career rather than dropping out of the profession.

Q: What are the plans for The British School Kathmandu in the next couple of years?

A: We have a really excellent purpose-built site that opened in August (2016). Moving forward, it’s about building on our inspection report, which was Outstanding; excellent in all areas. Also, making sure our community programmes are giving top value. We want no child in Nepal to miss out. We want every single teacher in Nepal to either have been to our school or been visited by our staff. For us that kind of ambitious passion for learning is what we want every school to have.

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