Repton AD: Preparing Tomorrow's Leaders

Gillian Hammond, the Principal of Repton Abu Dhabi since January 2018, is looking forward to welcoming Year 10 to 13 students into the school for the first time to the school from September 2019.
Repton AD: Preparing Tomorrow's Leaders
By Veathika
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An experienced senior leader Gillian Hammond has been the principal of Repton Abu Dhabi since January 2018. Ms Hammond's expertise is wide-ranging, with previous roles that have encompassed school improvement planning, tracking and analysis, enhancing student engagement, social and emotional education and positive discipline.

The Repton principal was previously the Head of Secondary at GEMS Winchester School and was the Assistant Vice-Principal at two schools in the United Kingdom. met Ms Hammond to find out what makes Repton Abu Dhabi, under her stewardship, stand out. We began however by finding out a little bit about the educator herself...

How did you get into education?

As a female science graduate (chemistry was my major), I experienced first hand the gender gap in this field of study. I also experienced, on a daily basis, the misconceptions around studying science… That it is too hard, or that it is boring. And whilst I never gave it much thought as a student, the media representation of scientists being ‘nerds’ or ‘geeks’ definitely did impact my peers when deciding whether or not to study science at a higher level.

I was lucky – I just pursued something I loved. So, when I graduated I felt determined to break down as many barriers for anyone else interested in science to follow their dreams. And what better way to do that than to grab my white lab-coat and safety goggles and jump into classrooms, with the hope of inspiring future generations into an exciting and essential science career.

At Repton, I am delighted our students are fully engaged with STEM subjects and I actually find it difficult to contain my joy when I see the many projects that take place in our newly open STEM Garden, Science laboratories and Design Technology Workshops throughout the academic year.

What are your priorities as a Principal for Repton Abu Dhabi?

Our school has two campuses on Reem Island – Rose Campus FS-Year 1 and Fry Campus Year 2-Year 13. Whilst Rose Campus is thriving and entering its 6th academic school year, Fry has just entered its 2nd year and has many exciting developments over the next two years, particularly as we welcome Year 10-Year 13 students for the first time in September 2019 and introduce iGCSE and A-Level.

Our current Fry campus students already benefit from state-of-the-art facilities, and we will continue to open additional specialist learning spaces as our community grows. Our priority is to ensure a unified and continuous educational plan for all children from 3 through to 18. Our students will continue to gain the highest levels of Digital Literacy and academic achievement at school and beyond. We can’t wait to find out where our first Year 13 students will attend university.

Repton has a name to live up to, and clearly that means pressure for the school to perform well. How do you handle that expectation?

We measure our performance in numerous ways which include having happy, confident students who love to come to school each day; a rich and dynamic extra-curricular programme; and a parent body that supports the school fully, working in partnership to enhance our international family-community feel.

We work closely with and are supported by our sister schools: Repton Dubai, Foremarke Dubai, Foremarke UK and Repton School in Derbyshire, UK. Each year we have a Quality Assurance Visit from our UK Governors who ensure our UK curriculum and academic standards serve the high aspirations we have for each and every student. We also work closely with the ADEK framework for school inspections, self-evaluating against this regularly in relation to performance benchmarks, ensuring students meet and exceed expectations.

We are extremely proud of our 460 year heritage and rather than view this as pressure, we see it as an honour to inspire and prepare the next generations of Reptonians.

What is your leadership style?

There isn’t one leadership style that any one Principal may rely upon. Principals really do have the best job in the world. It is demanding; it presents new and surprising challenges each day; it is exceptionally rewarding. To fulfil the role, different leadership styles are needed depending upon the situation. One thing that is essential is effective communication.

Relationships in a school matter most and in my opinion the best ones are established with trust, integrity, hard work, commitment and empathy. In conversations with my teachers and senior leaders, when we need to make a decision, we always ask “what is best for the students” and “does this improve learning?”

Any decision taken (whether easy or hard) is then always the correct answer.

You have been in the UAE for a number of years, how do you see schools and education evolving in the country?

I have always been inspired by the UAE’s ambition and I believe the UAE National Agenda 2021 really has now had an impact on schools in several areas. Some examples:

The National Agenda aims for all schools and students to be equipped with Smart systems and devices. Repton Abu Dhabi was the first Apple Distinguished School (ADS) in the Middle East in 2016 and is now the only reaccredited school. ADS is recognition of our clear vision of how technology supports and extends learning. All our students have iPads from Foundation School to Year 9 and use technology as a tool in their learning, supporting them to become independent, critical thinkers. And we provide training to teachers from other schools on how to integrate technology into the curriculum to accelerate learning.

The National Agenda promotes a knowledge economy that equips children for the ever changing world of work. At Repton, we strive to instill an entrepreneurial culture, encouraging students to develop such skills as innovation, leadership and creativity. Our students participate in product design tasks during timetabled Innovation time.

In regards to sustainability, we have formed an Eco-Club and students are ambitiously working to preserve water resources, reduce energy consumption, decrease plastic and paper waste and even improve air quality. As a school we have removed single use plastics, we recycle paper, we turn off lights when not needed and we are going to grow fruits and vegetables using hydroponics, which will in turn improve air-quality from the additional oxygen these plants will release.

Repton students also work towards the goal of a cohesive society and preserved identity. Our parents and teachers feel proud to be part of our international community, living and working together in Abu Dhabi. We celebrate our diversity with 74 different nationalities, and feel united by the culture, heritage and traditions of the UAE.

How has secondary school changed in terms of teaching/learning?

Thankfully the focus has now moved to skill acquisition rather than knowledge gathering. Classrooms are learning focused where teachers act as facilitators. You won’t see rows of desks and piles of text books, instead students huddled together, learning from discovery. We can only imagine the careers our children will enter in years to come. We must therefore provide students with a range of learning experiences that foster critical 21st Century skills. These ultimately allow students to be adaptable to the changing ways we will work together in the decades to come.

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