Q&A with Ken Page, Headteacher of the British Embassy School Ankara

TIC catches up with Ken Page to talk about recruitment and leadership in Turkey

Ken Page is the Headteacher at British Embassy School Ankara (BESA). TIC Recruitment has ben working with BESA for several years; here we speak to Ken about using TIC Recruitment and leading an international school in Turkey.

Q: Tell us about the British Embassy School of Ankara?

A: We have about 200 children, ranging from Nursery to Year 9, with a maximum of 20 children in each class. We mostly serve the diplomatic community; two-thirds of the children are expatriates, mostly from embassies, and about a third are local Turkish children. We use the International Primary Curriculum (IPC) and the English National Curriculum, and the International Middle Years Curriculum (IMYC) for the older children.

Q: What are the benefits of using a recruitment company like TIC?

A: Well for us, it means we don’t have to do that much work. We simply tell TIC what we want and we sit back and wait for the applications to hopefully come rolling in. That’s the single biggest advantage – it takes that weight of responsibility from us as a school and passes it on to someone who has the time to dedicate, whereas we’re trying to run a school at the same time.

Q: What qualities do you look for in new teachers?

A: I think the single biggest quality we look for is flexibility. We need a teacher who is going to be flexible enough to adapt to living in a different environment; not all teachers understand the needs of working in an international school. We need teachers who are willing to muck in, get their hands dirty, do a bit of everything, and don’t mind having a go at things, whether or not it’s their area of expertise.

They’ve also got to have relatively good people skills. They have to get on with other people and they have to be prepared to be part of the community. It’s very important to be part of your community when you’re working at an international school. The teachers who are unsuccessful go home after school and shut themselves in their apartment and do nothing. We’re looking for teachers who will adapt to the school, participate in extra-curricular activities, join in with the wider school community, and go out and make the best of the opportunities that are available in the city.

Q: What are the opportunities for teachers in international schools to work up to leadership positions?

A: I’d have thought at least the same as there are in domestic schools. In my own situation, I last worked in the UK 16 years ago. I was a classroom teacher, I moved overseas and I’m now Headteacher of a prestigious international school. It’s just a normal process to leadership, as it would be in the UK.

Maybe there are even more opportunities overseas, I’m not expert enough in the domestic market to compare, but there are certainly good opportunities overseas.

Q: Sir Michael Wilshaw, Head of Ofsted, has said that the UK is facing a ‘brain drain’ of teachers leaving for international schools. What is your response to that?

A: It’s a slightly negative way of putting what is a real situation. There are so many British international schools opening, that qualified British teachers are in huge demand. I wouldn’t say it’s a ‘brain drain’; I think that’s pretty demeaning to the teachers that don’t leave the UK. I think there are excellent teachers who choose to stay in the UK.  But it’s true that there are not enough teachers to work in the UK and also in the British schools overseas. The challenge is how we meet that demand in the future.

A skilled teacher of any age that has ambitions to work overseas should realise that the world is their oyster. As long as they’re flexible, adaptable and willing to leap in and give it a go, there are huge opportunities for them.

Q: What’s new for the British Embassy School Ankara?

A: We’re expanding our school to Year 9. We currently go to Year 8 currently like an old-style prep school. Whether we’ll expand beyond Year 9 I don’t know, we’re limited in how much we can expand. But it’s a fabulous little school.
For anyone who’s interested, it’s everything you dream of in a school. It’s not too big, everybody knows everybody else, and everybody cares for everybody else. We don’t have the pressures you have in the domestic market; we focus on children’s learning and what we think is best for children’s learning. We don’t have an education minister telling us what we should do. We do what we think is best in order to improve children’s learning. Teachers are free to be creative and innovative and are encouraged to do so, in ways that I understand are less common now in the domestic market.

It’s a great place to work. Our teachers work collaboratively in pairs and we only have one class per year group. We’ve worked very hard to have our teachers work as collaboratively as possible. Our Year 5 class routinely works with the Year 6 class – not all the time, but frequently.

We have an enrichment programme that runs throughout the school. Children are placed into the enrichment programme according to their passions and their interests rather than on their age. There are so many opportunities for everyone here; children, teachers and leaders.

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