Kent College Global: Leaving No Student Behind

David Lamper is Executive Head of Kent College Canterbury, a long established and highly successful English day and boarding school. His role also sees him lead what he describes as the “Kent College family of schools”, which includes Kent College Dubai, the online school Kent College Hong Kong and the soon to open Kent College West Cairo. We met with Mr Lamper during a recent visit to Dubai to find out how Kent College translates their UK success and ethos to the international schools.
Kent College Global: Leaving No Student Behind
By Jenny Mollon
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Our team were delighted to interview David Lamper, Executive Head of Kent College Canterbury , Kent College Dubai, Kent College Hong Kong and the soon to open Kent College West Cairo (opening September 2022) during a recent trip to Dubai.  Read on to find out about plans for more Kent College schools and what continues to unite the "family" of schools across the world.

Mr Lamper, what brings you to the UAE?

With all the challenges of the past two years, I haven’t had a chance to be here in Dubai since 2020. Prior to that, I would have been here at least once a term, so I am delighted to be back and face to face with everyone!

It is incredibly important to us that all the Kent College schools feel like the original school in Canterbury. Whenever I am here, I visit as many classes as possible to see what the teachers are doing, how they are interacting with the children and how the children interact with one another. I am just delighted with what I have seen and felt here in Kent College Dubai.

A (pre-Covid) production at Kent College Dubai

After Dubai, I’ll be carrying on to Cairo, where we will open Kent College West Cairo in September 2022. We have used the same architects who designed the Dubai school and it is looking terrific so far. Our Cairo primary school will open in September 2022 and eventually the school will be ‘all through’, both primary and secondary, as in Dubai and Canterbury.

Can you tell our readers a bit more about yourself?

I started my career as a music teacher at, Dulwich College in London. Then I moved to become a Head of Performing Arts at a comprehensive [state] school in Sussex, where I grew up. My next move was to become Deputy Head in an all-boys comprehensive school in the outskirts of London. From there, I got my first headship in a grammar school in Gloucester. I joined Kent College around 15 years ago and have seen my own sons attend the school and develop lots of wonderful, lifelong and international friendships as a result.

I am a big believer in lifelong learning. I took a Masters degree when I wanted to become a Head of Department. I took an MBA when I wanted to look at senior leadership in schools, and then a Doctorate when I became a school leader. I’ve been fortunate enough to lead schools for 22 years in total now.

What unites each Kent College school?

Well, I hope that what unites them is the same focus on the individual child that we have always had in Canterbury. That is something that is easy to say, but not necessarily so easy to deliver! It’s about getting the curriculum right for each and every child. You can see that at Kent College Dubai with the recent introduction of the IB Diploma into the Sixth form, alongside A Levels and BTECs.

Our schools are inclusive schools, and that will always be important to us. The UK school is one of the top schools in the UK and yet it is inclusive…some of the other schools that join us in that top ten list are very highly selective. I think we can be very proud of that fact.

Kent College Canterbury

Pastoral care is a top priority in every Kent College. It’s about helping students in the right way. It is never, in Kent College, a one size fits all approach. I saw some great examples of this as I walked around Kent College Dubai. The teachers clearly know the kids so well. They know how to get children working and motivated because of that connection. Carmella Jodrell, our Head of Primary at Kent College Dubai, has been with us since the very start and really invested her time into understanding what Kent College is all about. She has had a great impact.

Kent College Dubai now has a range of vocational, BTEC programmes. Why is vocational education a priority in your schools?

In the UK, we run CTEC programmes, which are very similar to BTECs. Almost all our students get distinctions and distinctions stars and they go on to really good universities. Their learning style might not have been suited to the IB or A Level programme. The fact they can take a vocational course and thrive, that is what we want. Again, it is about pathways and opportunity. When the new T-Level vocational qualifications are introduced, we will be open minded about them. If they are the best things for the children, then we will consider them. It is as simple as that for us.

What can Kent College Canterbury learn from the international Kent College schools?

Oh! Every time I visit, I learn some new things. Every time! A school like Kent College Dubai has teachers are coming from different parts of the world with different experiences…that is such a valuable and rich resource. In my learning walk around the Dubai school, I had two documents open … one where I was identifying and recording all the best practice I was seeing, and for the other for photographs and notes.

A good example from Kent College Dubai are the wellbeing checks that are made via an online resource called Pulse. I think that is going to be great for us back in Canterbury. Wellbeing and mental health are really high priorities in education, wherever you are in the world. The children get asked about six questions every week and then you can track that over the time, how their mood is changing. It is very clever and I’m looking forward to sharing it with my colleagues in the UK.

Kent College West Cairo will open in September 2022

How do your teachers across the world collaborate?

At Kent College we are a family of schools. A culture of tolerance, kindness and simply being together and being connected is really important. We have members of staff transferring from Dubai to Canterbury and vice versa and we want to encourage more of that as the family of schools grows bigger.

The same is of course true for students. When we first considered a school in Hong Kong, one of the important things there was for the Junior school children to be able to move on to the Senior School in Kent College Canterbury. Some other British schools in Hong Kong can’t promise that.

Kent College has an online school in Hong Kong

What do you look for in school leaders for the Kent College schools?

Of course, I am looking for someone with a strategic view, but the most important thing in Kent College senior leaders, middle leaders and classroom leaders is people who have the welfare and the progress of children at heart. That has to be central to all that they do.

I never want to hear about Kent College giving up on a student, that would upset me greatly. I always want to find how we can give each child the extra chance to put something right if it goes wrong.

It’s the same with retaining and developing staff members. We have kept a really good core of staff since the school opened in Dubai. It was so lovely to come back after a while and be greeted by so many familiar faces, despite the masks!

Can we expect more Kent College schools in the UAE and around the world?

It is entirely possible that there might be a second school in the UAE, yes. Of course, we will be opening Kent College West Cairo in September 2022, and we think that will be just our school first in Egypt.

Once you have one very successful international school with a good reputation, as we have in Dubai, then investors around the world take note. In fact, we are finalists in the Education Investor Awards, coming up soon. I can’t tell you where the other places in the world that we are looking at are, but we have another couple of projects that we are seriously considering and new ideas cross my desk every week!

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