1. It must be a major challenge to create a new school from scratch. You have an academic background, so we believe that you are looking at all designs from this angle?
Let me start with my own background. Although my career has been spent, predominately, in the education sector, I also have wider experience, in the field of finance; namely accountancy and banking.
My experience of start-up schools has provided me with a 360-degree angle on most necessary components, from the design, through marketing and to admissions. Most importantly, however, my own education background as a Head and Deputy, as well as an inspector/accreditor of schools, enables me to visualize and realize all aspects of an educational build, such as Brookes Moscow.
That said, it would be arrogant of me to suggest that I can do this alone; there are so many aspects of a school start up that I rely heavily on the input of my Senior Leaders and all other staff.
2. How much of the design is from your personal considerations or are all decisions made at board level?
The board, myself, senior leaders and now all other staff are consulted about aspects of the design. It is, by no means, a one-man job; or indeed something that can be fully undertaken by a board who are not always able to be in Moscow.
There will always be some personal touches that a Head of School likes to put into the design of a school, and to that end, I have been busy focusing on the most important factor – the educational layout. This is critical, as the learning environment needs to be conducive to the needs of our children.
It would be no good, for example and in a building our size, to have the only music suites in one end of the secondary section. The performing arts will be an integral part of our curriculum, and so we have adjusted the design and layout of some of the rooms to reflect that – in this example, providing a specific music suite in the Early Years/Primary section of the school. Or, as a further example, not consulting with the Nursery team, about the requirements of a flexible and durable school uniform for the little children, would result in complications further down the line.
There are some designs that we follow as part of our greater Brookes Education Group family; for example, a similar family feel to our website (www.moscow.brookes.org) or the same colors and style of uniforms.
3. Are there sometimes compromises when you are dealing with the contractors?
Always! We are bound, and quite rightly so, by the Russian regulations when it comes to the design and build of the school. Here, we work collaboratively with the construction company, Pioneer, to set out our educational requirements, and to negotiate how these can be achieved within the boundaries of the law.
This has not prevented us from ensuring that we reach the highest possible standards in terms of build, facilities and resources. It is mainly all about a meeting of professional minds – what is desirable from an educational point of view, and how to make this possible.
4. In addition, with the building, you must be very involved in recruiting staff. What are you looking for?
Most of my time recruiting teaching staff was back between September and January. This is the time on the international circuit, whereby academic teaching expatriates are looking forward to their next career move. At the time of my main recruitment drive, I was looking for teaching staff who were going to commit to Brookes Moscow for a number of years, in order to help me establish and build a trusting community. Past experiences in Moscow, have very obviously highlighted to me, that in order to gain the trust and satisfaction of families, it is imperative to provide a cohesive and committed faculty. It is not my desire to provide a one-stop shop for traveling staff to jump into and jump out of, less than a year later.
Further to this, I focused on ensuring that I created a balance of teaching staff; some more experienced than others, but all with the desire to grow and be part of something bigger.
Alongside, and of equal importance, are the local staff we have employed and continue to do so. These members of staff are critical to the smooth and effective running of Brookes Moscow. They, themselves, are complete professionals and very well qualified and experienced. All these staff will be able to speak English; as in the main language of our school.
5. Where will a majority of your academic staff be coming from and what qualifications are necessary?
Our academic teaching staff are coming from across the globe – a complete international mix. It is necessary for ALL teaching staff to be fully qualified teachers, and hold a recognizable degree that is of the British standard of teaching (for example PGCE, QTS, etc.)
It’s a long list, but we will be represented by fully qualified teaching staff from, amongst others, Australia, South Africa, Russia, Canada and the UK.
6. There must be a thousand decisions to be made every day. Can you give us some examples and any amusing anecdotes?
Thousands is an understatement; however, all of these decisions are imperative in ensuring that the school is functional and effective.
There are, of course, some decisions that could be seen as less important than others – whether or not we have house colored swimming hats is one prime example; or, how many photocopiers do we need. These of course, are decisions that can be made relatively easily, yet are still very important. However, there are some that require a great deal of careful thought; such as the health, safety and welfare of the children; for example, the fire drill exit points and of course, the all-important muster point.
One more recent and amusing decision to be made, were the names of the four houses. Brookes Moscow have made the decision to go with strong, lasting and impressive icons as their four houses – British Castles. However, deciding upon which ones we chose, created much laughter; it reminded us of the old British jokes that start with…. ‘There was an Englishman, Irishman, and Scotsman…..’ We of course, intend on being fully representative in our house system, and will have icons and staff from all four countries: Wales, Ireland, Scotland and England. Now the hard part – which color is which?…..perhaps your readers would like to express their thoughts for the four castles and which should be Red, Blue, Green and Yellow?
7. Finally, are you on schedule?
In a word; yes. Keeping to schedule is our aim, and to date, we are on schedule to open on Monday, September 3rd, 2018.