22 January 2020

Introducing our new Principal from September 2020

Introducing our new Principal from September 2020

Introducing Allan Cairns, Principal of Ealing Independent College from September 2020. 

What motivated you to become an educator, and what continues to attract you to the profession?

After university, I took some time to consider what my career path should be. I’d always been able to connect well with people and enjoyed public speaking. Teaching came naturally to me, and I instantly enjoyed it. The initial fear of going into the classroom quickly dissipated, and I came to thrive on it. That feeling has never left me, and seeing students develop and improve over time is something which I find really fulfilling. Relationships are fundamental to successful teaching, and I’ve always valued forging strong ones with students.

Looking back to your time as a teacher, what are your fondest memories? What are some of the things you are proudest of?

The memories which stand out for me are the times when I’ve enabled students to feel empowered. I recall my first lesson graded ‘outstanding’, where I carried out an interactive role-play with year 7 students driving the learning themselves, but I think the most pleasing memories are those based outwith the classroom. The conversion of the History corridor there into a replica first world war trench, building a valuable project with a partner school in India, helping students to discover new things on overseas trips or managing the College football team to two league triumphs. The very best memories, however, have been on results days. Seeing students on their last day at the College, picking up results and moving on to their next destination, represents the culmination of all of the lessons, the marking, the advice and the hard work. Having been a part of their journey is extremely rewarding.

Who have been some of your major professional influences or mentors, and what lessons have you learned from them?

My first mentor on my PGCE was a History teacher called Rob Kingscote. He was inspirational in the classroom, and yet had a down-to-earth way of showing that such performance was achievable through hard work. He also gave some great tips on classroom management which were indispensible for a new teacher. I look upon two of my past headteachers as great role models too. Peter Norman at Waddesdon was a tremendous leader who was at the heart of everything that the school stood for. He was very effective in creating a complimentary team around him, and in empowering them to fulfil their potential. His deputy, Matthew Abbott, complimented him perfectly. He was also always able to get the best out of the students and staff around him. Obviously Ian Moores has also been a great influence. He has shown me the level of detail one is required to go into and the mindset one needs for change management. He has also provided me with room to grow into my current role.

What is your vision for the College?

Fundamentally, the College should be a safe environment for students and staff to thrive. I want students to come here and feel happy about themselves and the progress they have made. Where many of our students come to us having had a bad experience of education, it has been hugely pleasing to see students thrive with us. We have been able to help them access some of the best university courses open to them, and that needs to continue. I want to see students discover a sense of empowerment at the College - to learn new skills, to develop and be the very best they can be, while contributing to the friendly, caring and nurturing environment here.

What are your short term and long term plans for the College? 

In the short term, the College needs to work with students to make them more responsible learners. The new exam specifications are far more demanding, and the College needs to evolve in order to maintain the high standards we have set for ourselves. Expectations of everyone connected with the College should be to the limit. We need to ensure that students have the tools to be outstanding learners, and that we, as teachers, facilitate that. It’s really important that we provide an environment which can truly be called a bridge between school and university, where students increase their learning power, methods and efficiency.

In the long term, we must take on board the advice from ISI, who provided some valuable advice for improvement. We need to improve the provision for ICT across the College and fully integrate the curriculum with student capacity to access it. I’d also like to see more in the way of providing opportunities for student growth moving forward. A fully planned group of societies which enables students to prepare for key courses - like Medicine, Law, Engineering and Business - should ensure an outlet for students to tailor their applications for these courses in a far more effective way.

What does Ealing Independent College mean to you?

It means a great deal. It’s a wonderful place to work, where student individuality is valued and everything is geared towards maximising both student and staff potential. From the start of my time here, I’ve felt valued. I’ve been able to establish things which have created a legacy and have been able to improve approaches which have developed staff and student capabilities. The future here excites me. We have an excellent model for how a school should work, but the challenge is to refine it and make it even better. I am certain that this goal is achievable with hard work.

Outline the role you feel that parents should play in the College?

It’s vital that parents are supporting the College in what we are trying to do. Part of our Pastoral policy is to ensure frequent communication with parents, where updates are consistent and valuable. Parents have a stake in their son or daughters future, and we want to involve them in their journey at the College as far as we can. They should have no surprises when it comes to final results, and, in many cases, the frequency of our communication means that problems are often identified and proactively addressed before the issue becomes a major one. As far as is possible, we need to create a partnership. We all want the same thing - for their son or daughter to perform to the best of their ability.

What have you learnt in your current position that you feel you can take forward in to your new position?

Having access to the whole-school decision making process for the last few years has shaped my vision for the College and I feel that, having grown with it, I really understand where we are, and what we need to do to move the College forward. I have been able to forge strong bonds with the staff, student and parent bodies, whilst building a good working relationship with a number of key staff at Bellevue Education, the proprietors of the College. More than anything else, I feel that I have developed an instinctive sense of how the College functions, and functions most effectively. Becoming Principal will be a challenge, but it is an exciting one. It is with a great deal of pride that Ian, the directors, the staff and the students who I have spoken with have made it clear that they have full confidence in my ability to succeed in it.

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