Meet the Head at Horizon English, Ian Wallace

With more than a decade as an educator, Ian Wallace was officially appointed the Headteacher of Horizon English School in late November 2018. His main priority, he says, is to create a buzz around passionate learning.
Meet the Head at Horizon English, Ian Wallace
By Veathika
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Mr. Ian Wallace assumed the Head Teacher's role of Horizon English School on 22nd of November 2018. He had already been part of the Horizon English School (HES) family for the past five years however, first as the Assistant Head and then acting Head Teacher following Mr. David Baldwin's departure last year.

With more than 13 years within education, and eight in the UAE, Mr Wallace has had time to formulate his ideas for how to take forward the 30-year-old, Very Good rated Horizon English School...

Before we begin on what you plan for HES however, tell us, how did you get into education?

I was initially inspired by my secondary Design Technology teacher, so much so I initially pursued a career in Design. I took a degree in Design Technology education, and within that degree there was a placement in primary school. Needless to say, I absolutely loved it and had a moment where I was like, "I am on the wrong course!" I loved the creativity of primary and the ability to have such an influence on young minds. I ended up completing my degree in DT but then I went on to doing a primary education qualification. 

Teaching is important to you, so do you miss being in class?

I love being in class and being a head teacher I miss the opportunity to be in class everyday. Being self-competitive, I wanted to get better at Foundation Stage, so last year I taught a session a week in FS2. It was mind-blowing and the biggest learning curve as a teacher for me. I asked the TA to critique me. Feedback is an essential part of self-improvement. This academic year, I am teaching Year 2 once I week. This is, mainly, a writing session.

Having been a teacher and understanding that role, what kind of a boss are you?

One thing I have learnt about being a leader is that you can't change who you are. Initially, when I started in a leadership role, I was perhaps a little naive and came into things thinking I have got to behave like this, in a certain style. However really you just need to be yourself, and use your strengths.

My style is one of balance and collaboration, rooted in effective communication. Communications underpins everything, the way that we interact, collaborate and get people on board. To be really good at it you also need a lot of emotional intelligence.

I think it helps that I love working with people, so collaboration is just something I enjoy.

What are your priorities for HES, how can you improve things?

The school is going to go through an expansion and we are enhancing its facilities. We want to create more opportunities, not more classrooms. We are looking at an environment that enhances the delivery of Science, Technology, English, Arts and Maths (STEAM). By that we mean we want children to be excited by our lessons, for there to be a buzz and a passion in doing and learning.

We want our students to come out of lessons buzzing. I can’t it stand when schools say "we are academically fantastic" as if that in itself is an outcome. When I talk to parents I always say one thing that we do well is happiness, engagement and passion for learning. That delivers results. We need to focus here, on the input, not on the output which is just a grade on a piece of paper.

We are investing in the people that matter - children, staff and parents. Our overarching priorities are progression of the building, maintaining our 30 year ethos and still being known for being that small school that can, and does.

As a head teacher what are the challenges you face in marketing your school in the face of a host of new schools with bells and whistles?

At the end of the day it comes back to what a school provides and does. You can put bells and whistles on things, but really what is important are the learning opportunities that deliver memorable learning moments. HES stands out for those things are unique to the school – its inclusivity for example, those elements that are in its 30 year old DNA.

We say that we are a school that reflects society and we really believe that. Education is not a choice but a right and our school can’t exemplify that enough in terms of inclusivity.

You really don’t need the state of the art facilities to be a great school. They may help but at the end of the day they are a resource. We have a culture of excellent teaching, a philosophy rooted in self development and a staff focused on improving themselves - for their students.

If there was one idea you could implement in the school, what would it be?

A greater fusion with technology to facilitate independent learning. I was speaking with the president of an American school about how they do two days of class based learning and three days of non-structured learning at high school.

There are a variety of projects and resources that facilitate independent learning today. Students would always have access to a teacher but they can dip in and out, check-in and use technology to do so. Students would update their learning blog, so the teacher can still keep track of what they are learning and how. The teacher can also spot issues, or problems that may be lurking ahead.

An example would be a student working on a project on creativity, and they want to integrate music in the music lab. They go and jam or record different sounds, while in their design technology room they can 3D print a unique musical instrument for a new sound they are trying to produce. We have all the facilities to do this right now but at the moment we still need to find a way to make learning more free flowing and less structured or regimented. We need to start creating independent learners, and for that we need to begin imagining new forms of delivery at the primary stage. These are powerful ideas, I would like us all to begin thinking about and exploring.

As a young parent, what are things you would want in a school for your daughter?

Variety, having a broader opportunity to excel at different things. You don’t know what passions are going to be uncovered.  I would also look for a school that is down to earth and approachable. Finally, it should also be fun. Again, we need to get these kinds of inputs right. If we do that then any student will thrive...

And finally... the serious questions :)

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