Home LearningExcellence In...Schools How Emily Hopkinson Shapes the Culture at English College of Dubai

How Emily Hopkinson Shapes the Culture at English College of Dubai

by Belinda Breeze

Dedicated to fostering a dynamic educational environment, Emily Hopkinson, as the Head of Secondary School at English College Dubai, brings a visionary leadership approach to empower both students and educators. With a distinguished career, Emily is renowned for their unwavering commitment to academic excellence, holistic development, and creating a culture of inclusivity.

Education UAE: What is your vision for the secondary school at the English College Dubai, and how do you plan to achieve it?

Emily Hopkinson: We are a responsibly inclusive school and as such, it matters to us that we celebrate the individual talents and passions of each of our students. We want them to grow and flourish holistically; academically, socially and personally. It matters to us that we are nurturing responsible, well-mannered children who embody our school values. We have a targeted approach to achieving this, through the lens of academic care – our PSHCE programme and our assembly programme are used to communicate board messages to our school community. Alongside this, one-to-one meetings, focused on the individual child’s needs, ensure that each child is visible and has a plan to help them to thrive. 

Education UAE: Can you describe the school’s approach to curriculum development and student learning?

Emily Hopkinson: As a British curriculum school, we prepare students for A-level and GCSE examinations at KS5 and 4 respectively. However, at key stage we follow a backwards-by-design approach, identifying the necessary knowledge, skills and understanding for success at key stages and map these backwards through key stage 3. This ensures that our teachers are focussing on what students know and can do, rather than endless delivery of content. As a school, we base our teaching and learning approach on Barak Rosenshine’s principles of instruction, using evidence-based practice as to how students learn best. This has been embedded throughout the school with all teachers following a framework for how to ensure students learn while adding their own individuality and flair.

Education UAE: How do you ensure a safe and inclusive environment for all students, including those with diverse backgrounds and needs?

Emily Hopkinson: Safeguarding is at the forefront of what we do. Our number one priority is our students feeling safe, happy and well. With this in mind, our teachers undertake half termly safeguarding training, focussing on various issues, so that they can spot signs of potential concerns and support students where necessary. Furthermore, we use several pieces of data to ensure that our students have daily, weekly and monthly opportunities to identify how they are feeling and seek support if they need it. Our school counsellor gives one-to-one support to those students who need more targeted and personalised intervention. All of this is underpinned by an incredibly robust set of policies including an anti-bullying policy and a positive behaviour policy, which ensures that every member of our diverse community is safe and welcomed.

Education UAE: What strategies does the school employ to engage parents and the local community in the educational process?

Emily Hopkinson: Parents are essential to the learning process. This is why our parents have immediate access to attendance and punctuality data, as well as live behaviour points being awarded in school. This enables them to have meaningful conversations with their children about their broader academic performance. We also have regular reports and parents’ evenings to keep parents up to date on their child’s current progress and attainment. On top of this, we have a programme of parent workshops at EC that are delivered onsite weekly. The topics of these workshops are diverse in nature – they range from why we sleep, to the cognitive science behind learning and all the way to our PERMA positive psychology curriculum. All of these combine to ensure that our parents are equipped to have high-quality, meaningful conversations with their children about their learning.

Education UAE: How do you support the professional development of your teaching staff to ensure high-quality instruction?

Emily Hopkinson: All our staff have professional learning goals that support their individual development and reflect the size and scope of their role. They are encouraged to engage in reading and research in the pursuit of this goal with learning and development as the key focus. Our staff undertake fortnightly CPD sessions, based on our school strategic focus. These sessions are personalised, with regular opportunities for staff to select their own learning opportunities, in line with our focus. Many of our teachers across the school are undertaking additional development, such as through completing NPQs or Master’s qualifications. It matters to us that when our staff leave school, they do so as better professionals than when they joined.

Education UAE: What measures does the school take to promote and maintain student discipline and a positive school culture?

Emily Hopkinson: Nurturing well-behaved and well-mannered students is important to us. We take our responsibilities here very seriously and have robust policies to underpin our expectations and our values. All of our staff play their role in ensuring students adhere to the school values and demonstrate respect and care at all times. We’re fortunate that our parents recognise what we are trying to achieve and are incredibly supportive of the actions we take. It matters that our students care about themselves and their community and respect all of those within it.

Education UAE: Can you provide information on the extracurricular activities and opportunities available to students?

Emily Hopkinson: We have an extensive ECA programme, run by our head of PE, which offers something for everyone! Students are encouraged to participate in activities to follow their passions, but also activities that promote positive physical and mental health. There is a broad range on offer, including chess club, Duke of Edinburgh’s award, and sustainability club, mixed in with all of our competitive and non-competitive sports teams. We monitor the few students who do not engage in the EC programme so that we can drive individual conversations and we seek feedback from students and parents each term in order to inform our programme for the following term.

Education UAE: How does the school handle the integration of technology and digital learning tools into the curriculum?

Emily Hopkinson: All of our students have their own device, which is used to support teaching and learning across the curriculum. When devices are used, they are used purposefully so that they add value to learning. Alongside this, all of our students in key stage 3 engage in a compulsory computing programme so that we are enabling them to develop the necessary knowledge and skills that they will need to succeed later in life.

Education UAE: What is the school’s approach to university and career readiness for its students?

Emily Hopkinson: We have a full-time higher education and careers advisor in school who ensures that students are fully prepared for the next phase of their careers. Our philosophy is that students will attend the best university that they can, in the best location, as long as it meets their needs. Education and guidance start early – as early as year 7! Of course, our programme is tailored so that it is suitable for students at each stage. Students are encouraged to follow their dreams and passions and pursue study and a future career that is right for them. Naturally, many of our families face financial restrictions, and we support them to ensure that they are prepared and informed well ahead of time of the financial implications of further study.

Education UAE: How does the school track and communicate students’ progress and academic performance to parents and guardians?

Emily Hopkinson: We have a calendar of data reports, written reports and parents’ evenings that are suitable for each year group. Each year we review this offer with our parent community to ensure that it is fit for purpose and inform them of what they need to know, when they need to know it. Attainment matters but progress equally matters – it’s important that we recognise and celebrate those students who try their best each day, working diligently to achieve their outcomes.