21 June 2022

Teacher Tuesday: Allan

Teacher Tuesday: Allan

For the last “Teacher Tuesday” of the Academic year, we present a special edition piece, as today we're joined by Allan Cairns, Ealing Independent Colleges' Principal.

As it’s known to most, Allan is not only the Principal of EIC, but he also teaches History to A-Level students, and English Language to the GCSE year groups.

Allan’s most distinguished feature at work is definitely his clear vision for the future of the College, that drives every decision he takes. His determination also allows everyone else to strive towards the same goals enabling the College to develop and grow, following a transparent plan. 

Allan has been an essential part of Ealing Independent College since September 2014, thus he is nearly approaching the 8 years mark.

What first attracted Allan to EIC was its location: easy to reach from Acton, Ealing Independent College seemed the right community for him to progress in his career. At that point, in fact, Allan was a Head of Humanities in a state school, and felt that he was ready for promotion.

When a job came up at EIC, he met with the then Principal Dr Ian Moores a few times before deciding to accept an offer to become Head of GCSE and Humanities here. Since then, he has enjoyed almost every day that he has been here, especially thanks to “the freedom I’ve had to grow and develop”, and has really felt like he has progressed. He was first promoted to Director of Studies, and then Vice Principal, before becoming Principal in 2020.

Today, Allan describes Ealing Independent College as a truly unique environment - and all staff and students who come here would definitely agree with that statement. He adds:

I remember meeting with a prospective parent recently, and he described the College as having a special aura - which is hard to describe, but there is certainly a special warmth here. 

The fundamental difference between EIC and other Colleges lies in the size of the community. Allan explains that, by capping class sizes at 12, it opens up the possibilities to prioritise learning time, to maximise progress and to fully dedicate time to investing in relationships. This ensures that students feel valued. They feel that their opinion matters, that staff truly care about them, and that they will never be passed over whenever they need support.

Allan believes the College “lives or dies” by the strength of the relationships between students, staff and parents. He continues:

“We strive to put a great deal of time and effort into ensuring that strong links are established with respect to this, and that these are exploited to ensure that we are a cohesive and progressive learning community. Where issues arise, we always encourage doubts or pleas for support to be voiced. In this way, we can tackle problems, solve them and move past them. This can only happen because trust is as prevalent as it is - it permeates the College.” 

The aspect that Allan enjoys the most about his job is to empower others within the College to perform as well as they can, whether they are a member of staff or a student. This means that he has to set the tone positively, by leading from the front personally, but also by encouraging and inspiring everyone within the College community to seek new ways in which they can improve. Allan thoroughly enjoys seeing others thrive, watching them develop as they grow in confidence.

However, being the Principal at EIC is not the only contribution that Allan has had to the College’s life. Allan has joined or led several additional activities over the years: when he first joined the College in 2014, he quickly became aware of the keen sense of football fanaticism amongst the students. As an avid footballer himself in his younger years, he was happy to provide an outlet for this to grow.

From rather ad hoc football training arrangements, under Allan’s guidance, Ealing Independent College managed to have two teams in the space of a couple of years; EIC has seen its pick with 34 boys turning up for training one week!

The football team were able to win the West London Colleges Football League two years in a row, and a special atmosphere really gripped the College before games. 

Allan hopes this returns next year when the league recommences.

On top of this, Allan had the opportunity to lead the College’s first overseas trip - to China in 2016 which he still holds very fond memories of. A small group of EIC students walked the Great Wall, cooked Dimsum, visited pandas, climbed mountains, cycled Karst landscapes and taught English to local children all in the space of a month. It really was the adventure of a lifetime.

He also took students to Boston for MITs Model UN conference in 2018, making EIC the only UK school to take part in the event. Our participation has continued through the last few years, even during the pandemic, though online, and Allan really enjoyed seeing students enhance their skills of debating and problem solving through the new connections they’ve made.

Finally, Allan was the initiator of a running club at the College. The club was an opportunity not only for the students to challenge themselves, but also for Allan to push himself to greater distances. This year, he completed his second half marathon in Berlin, and signed up for two more this Autumn. Eventually, he will look to complete the full 26.2 mile race, hopefully in 2023.

Allan’s true personality often comes through every activity he leads, but there’s definitely more to know about who he is as a person. 

A great deal of his time outside the College is invested in his family. Allan has a daughter who has an insatiable appetite for activity, and, along with his wife, they delight in taking her to ballet, to swimming and to gymnastics on a weekly basis. 

Allan also enjoys watching football, and is a keen home cook. Additionally, he has a passion for reading and writing - which is expressed in the “Monday briefing”, a blog post that he publishes every Monday on the College’s website. 

Several EIC Staff Members wonder how he can consistently find time to dedicate to putting his thoughts down, but Allan finds the whole process very cathartic, as it allows him to record how  the job is going, to process things and then move forward in a positive manner. 

Finally, Allan volunteers as Vice Chair of the London North group of schools within the Independent Schools Association, and has very much enjoyed working with some extremely talented school leaders in this capacity.

To conclude, a fun fact about him: did you know that Allan could have been named “Silvio”?! 

In the days leading up to his birth, his parents had not yet decided what they were going to call him.  In July 1980, at a time when the Olympics were on in Moscow, the Scottish athlete Allan Wells won the gold medal in the 100 metres on the 25th July, around the time Allan came into the world. Allan Wells beat the Cuban runner Silvio Leonard in a photo finish, and had that gone the other way, perhaps our Principal could have been named Silvio Cairns!

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