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Academic Excellence: Mark Ford, Empowering Students to Excel

by Belinda Breeze

Dedicated to fostering a vibrant educational environment, Mark Ford, Principal of the English College Dubai, has an unwavering commitment to student success. Championing innovation and inclusivity, Mark is approachable, empathetic, and a proactive advocate for academic excellence, implementing dynamic initiatives and ensuring a holistic approach to learning.

Education UAE: How do you define English College Dubai’s mission and vision, and how does that guide decision-making and daily operations?

Mark Ford: The core purpose of the English College Dubai is to inspire confident and passionate learners who will thrive and make a difference. Our vision is to encourage students to always try their best and aspire to excellence. We strive to develop lifelong learners who flourish in all they do and embrace, with passion and confidence, their responsibility to support others and make a difference both locally and globally. We constantly refer back to these principles to ensure that our actions align with our overarching goals.

Education UAE: What are the school’s goals and strategies for promoting student engagement and motivation in the learning process?

Mark Ford: We believe that students should be equal partners in the learning process and we have a number of mechanisms and strategies in place to engage them in dialogue about how they learn best and what we can do to ensure that we are getting the best out of them.

Education UAE: What are the key strengths and unique features that set your school apart from others in the area?

Mark Ford: Our school distinguishes itself through a blend of tradition and innovation. We take immense pride in our rich heritage, traditions, and values, which form the foundation of our forward-looking approach. Key strengths include high-quality teaching, comprehensive learning experiences, and unwavering pastoral care. Moreover, our diverse extra-curricular offerings enrich students’ education.

What truly sets us apart is that we’re not just a British curriculum school; we’re a vibrant, diverse community that fosters excellence and celebrates individuality.

Education UAE: How does the school approach the individualised needs of students, including those who may require additional academic support or enrichment?

Mark Ford: At the English College, we are committed to responsibly inclusive education. We address individualised student needs through a systematic cycle of assessment, planning, action, and review. Our approach focuses on three key areas: More able and talented (MAT) students, English as an additional language (EAL) learners, and students with determination (SEND).

For more able students, we provide tailored challenges and support to help them reach their full potential. Talented students receive opportunities for further development. EAL students benefit from a comprehensive support package to overcome language barriers, and students with determination receive bespoke provisions to help them succeed. Our dedicated staff works diligently to ensure every student can thrive and reach their full potential.

Education UAE: What initiatives has the school implemented to promote innovation and adapt to changing educational trends and needs?

Mark Ford: School leaders are innovative and keep up-to-date with the latest educational research to ensure that we are adapting our provision, based on evidence-based practice, to meet the needs of the ever-changing educational landscape. We have a rich professional learning programme that ensures that all of staff – both academic and support – are supported in their professional growth, enabling them to deliver a high-quality of provision.

Education UAE: What methods or programmes does the school have in place to address student mental health and well-being?

Mark Ford: Aligned with the PERMA model, which focuses on Positive Emotions, Engagement, Relationships, Meaning, and Achievement, our school places a strong emphasis on student mental health and well-being. We incorporate mental health education, counselling services, peer support programs, well-being workshops, physical activity, and a supportive environment. This holistic approach ensures that students thrive emotionally and academically.

Education UAE: Can you provide insights into the school’s partnerships with local businesses, organisations, or higher education institutions that benefit students?

Mark Ford: We have established strong relationships with higher education institutions across the UAE and also beyond. We regularly have guests from overseas universities addressing our students and supporting their future pathways aspirations.

Education UAE: What is the school’s approach to incorporating environmental sustainability and ethical values into the educational experience?

Mark Ford: The school takes a comprehensive approach to incorporating environmental sustainability and ethical values into the educational experience. Our efforts encompass both education and action. We have a dedicated group of students known as the ‘EC Ecowarriors’ who actively seek out new sustainability initiatives.

We have established a compost garden in our primary section, reinforcing the importance of responsible waste management. We have also begun using large recycling bins for paper and plastic, promoting recycling and reducing waste. Notably, the plastic collected by Simply Bottles is recycled by DGrade into Greenspun™ yarn for textile production, closing the recycling loop and reducing environmental impact.

Furthermore, our school has invested in solar panels to harness renewable energy, demonstrating our commitment to sustainability and reducing our carbon footprint. These initiatives collectively instil ethical values and environmental consciousness in our students, fostering a sense of responsibility towards the planet and promoting sustainable practices.

Education UAE: How does the school measure its success and continuously evaluate and improve its educational programmes and outcomes?

Mark Ford: We have strong self-evaluation mechanisms and processes across the school, identifying what we do well but also, more importantly, our areas for development. These then inform our strategy and action plans to drive school improvement

Education UAE: If you had to choose a school mascot based on your personality, what would it be?

Mark Ford: An owl – I would like to think I am perceived as wise and insightful, able to make decisions based on a deep understanding of my environment. I believe I am also perceived as being independent and self-sufficient, preferring to observe the world from a distance and make decisions based on my own insight.