by Belinda Breeze

Through a rigorous and comprehensive curriculum, complemented by a wide range of extracurricular activities and enrichment programmes, The English College Dubai prepares its students to thrive in an ever-changing global landscape. It is a school that recognises that exceptional educators are the cornerstone of a transformative learning environment.

With this in mind, The English College Dubai has appointed a new deputy head of primary to start at the beginning of the next academic year, Andrew Stenhouse.

Education UAE spoke to Andrew, first asking what initially inspired him to pursue a role in education.

Andrew Stenhouse: During a rugby tour in Canada, I found inspiration in the educators who nurtured our team and created enduring memories. Consequently, I began visiting my former primary school to gain firsthand experience. This propelled me to enrol in Camp America that summer, serving as a camp counsellor in Maine, USA. Since then, I have had the privilege of working with children from diverse backgrounds worldwide, contributing to their development.

Education UAE: You are currently the Assistant Head of Primary at The English College Dubai, so you know the school well, but when you move into your new role, how do you plan to support and enhance the academic achievement of primary school students?

Andrew Stenhouse: In my new position as Deputy Head of Primary, my aim is to collaborate with the Primary Phase team to foster a culture of academic excellence and enthusiasm for learning at The English College. I intend to challenge every student to reach their full potential and cultivate an environment where they eagerly anticipate each school day with joy. Partnering closely with fellow educators, I will design engaging and memorable learning opportunities. An example of this is that we are currently collaborating with external companies to introduce exciting characters like the lifelike Thomas the Gorilla and Jam the T-rex Dinosaur to our school curriculum. We are also looking at more events that promote a passion for engineering such as Yas in School Formula One.

Education UAE: Can you discuss your approach to fostering a positive school culture and promoting inclusivity among students, staff, and parents?

Andrew Stenhouse: I prioritise fostering a positive school culture and promoting inclusivity among students, staff, and parents by leading with respect, empathy, and openness. Communication is central, with channels for dialogue always open to understand perspectives and address concerns. Celebrating diversity and creating a sense of belonging are key initiatives. Encouraging students to excel academically, professional development for staff, and partnerships with parents all contribute to an environment where everyone feels valued and empowered to thrive.

Education UAE: How do you envision collaborating with teachers to ensure effective curriculum implementation and instructional strategies?

Andrew Stenhouse: I will work closely with colleagues to ensure effective curriculum implementation and instructional strategies. This collaboration will involve regular meetings to discuss curriculum objectives, instructional methods, and assessment strategies. By working together, we can share best practices, identify areas for improvement, and tailor teaching to allow all learners to thrive. Additionally, I will provide ongoing support and professional development opportunities to empower teachers to implement the curriculum effectively and engage students in meaningful learning experiences. By fostering a culture of collaboration and continuous improvement, we can ensure that our curriculum is dynamic, relevant, and responsive to the needs of our students.

Education UAE: How do you plan to assess and address the diverse learning needs of students, including those with special educational needs or English as a second language?

Andrew Stenhouse: In addressing the diverse learning needs of students, including those with special educational needs or English as a second language, my approach is multifaceted. Firstly, I believe in employing a variety of assessment methods to gauge students’ strengths, challenges, and progress accurately. This may include formative assessments, observations, and standardised tests, supplemented by ongoing teacher-student dialogue. Additionally, I advocate for scaffolding and challenging, whereby teaching methods and materials are tailored to accommodate individual learning styles. This includes providing additional support, enrichment activities, or modifications as necessary. Collaborating closely with the inclusion team, I will ensure that appropriate interventions and resources are available to support students in their learning journey. Furthermore, fostering an inclusive classroom environment, where diversity is celebrated and all students feel valued and supported, is essential in promoting academic success and overall well-being.

Education UAE: How do you prioritise student well-being and mental health within the primary school environment?

Andrew Stenhouse: Prioritising student well-being and mental health within the primary school environment is fundamental to my approach. We implement the PERMA model, focusing on positive emotions, engagement, relationships, meaning, and accomplishment to foster a supportive atmosphere. Daily check-ins with students, coupled with an open-door policy, provide opportunities for them to express their feelings and concerns in a safe space. Additionally, we utilise PASS data to monitor and assess students’ happiness and contentment, ensuring that appropriate interventions are implemented when needed to support their well-being. Through these proactive measures, we strive to create a nurturing environment where every student feels valued, supported, and able to thrive both academically and emotionally.

Education UAE: Can you describe a successful initiative or project you’ve led in a previous role that positively impacted student learning outcomes?

Andrew Stenhouse: In a previous role, I spearheaded the implementation of the ‘Power of Reading’ programme, aimed at enhancing students’ reading and writing skills. This initiative involved not only curriculum development but also fostering a culture of reading within the school community. As part of this project, I facilitated teacher reading groups to explore innovative teaching methods and cultivate a love of literature among students. Moreover, I organised workshops for parents to encourage reading at home and to empower them as reading role models for their children. Through these efforts, we observed tangible improvements in student literacy levels and heightened enthusiasm for reading, ultimately positively impacting learning outcomes across the board.

Education UAE: How do you ensure that technology is effectively integrated into teaching and learning experiences for primary school students?

Andrew Stenhouse: Ensuring that technology is effectively integrated into teaching and learning experiences for primary school students is a priority in our approach. We leverage various devices and tools to enhance learning, including artificial intelligence, which enables creative responses to engage students in writing activities. Additionally, platforms like Google Sheets are utilised to teach essential skills such as creating charts and analysing data, fostering digital literacy from an early age. To bring learning to life, we incorporate video editing software and writing tools like Canva to publish final drafts. Collaboration with specially trained staff is essential; we conduct continuous professional development sessions to equip teachers with the necessary skills to integrate technology seamlessly into the curriculum. Furthermore, we adapt the curriculum to ensure it aligns with technological advancements, preparing students to thrive in an ever-changing digital landscape.

Education UAE: What strategies do you use to foster creativity, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills among primary school students?

Andrew Stenhouse: Fostering creativity, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills among primary school students is essential for their holistic development. To achieve this, I employ a range of strategies tailored to nurture these abilities. Firstly, I incorporate project-based learning activities that encourage students to explore topics in-depth, solve real-world problems, and think critically about various perspectives. In addition, I promote inquiry-based learning approaches where students are encouraged to ask questions, investigate, and draw their conclusions, fostering curiosity and independent thinking. To stimulate creativity, I provide opportunities for open-ended tasks, such as creative writing and STEAM challenges, allowing students to express themselves and explore innovative solutions. What’s more, I integrate collaborative learning experiences where students work in teams to solve problems, encouraging communication, cooperation, and the exchange of ideas. Through these strategies, I aim to empower students to become creative, analytical, and adaptable problem solvers, equipped with the skills they need to succeed in an ever-changing world.

Education UAE: If you could create a new subject for the primary school curriculum based solely on your interests and passions, what would it be?

Andrew Stenhouse: At Camp America, I introduced an elective called Fire and Ice, which offered a dynamic blend of physical, adrenaline-fueled activities alongside calming pursuits. For me, an ideal combination would involve organising a rugby match or an obstacle course followed by a serene painting session under the sunshine or immersing in a thrilling book. Additionally, I advocate for incorporating more cooking opportunities into the curriculum, providing students with the chance to explore culinary arts, where I can sample delicious treats, a prospect I enthusiastically support.