Kings’ School Nad Al Sheba has got a new principal Kate Fuller, who will be replacing Darren Gale form the next academic year.
A British national with more than 15 years of teaching and senior leadership experience, Kate has successfully guided children and teaching teams in the UK, Malaysia, the US, and soon Dubai.
Ms Fuller joins Kings’ School Nad Al Sheba from the British International School of Houston, a Nord Anglia Education school, where she was head of primary.
Kate also spent a number of years in Kuala Lumpur as Principal of the primary campus at the top-rated Alice Smith School, prior to which she held headships and strategic education consultant roles in the UK.
Passionate about providing children with an outstanding British international education, we find out Kate’s big plans for her new role in Dubai…
How did you get into teaching?
I did a little bit of advertising work after university as I didn’t know what to do at that point in time and then I went travelling to Australia where I met my husband. When I came back to the UK, I worked in recruitment in London for a short time and I was an equity derivative trader and sales recruitment consultant and it didn’t take me long to realise that I didn’t want to work in a career that was so financially oriented. I wanted something that was more nourishing for the soul.
I reached out to schools in my local area and did some volunteering work and decided that working with young people was very enriching. I chose to retrain and then worked in a Beacon school, which means that it was a school, which was seen as a beacon of excellent practice for the schools around it.
The head teacher there was a true mentor. She saw in me the things that I didn’t see in myself. I did my training and even in my first year I took on responsibility with a local education authority as a mentor for new teachers joining us from overseas and I mentored graduate teachers.
It was at the Beacon school that I got the passion for mathematics and learning technologies and it was 2002 where computers were there in schools but only one per class. Our school was at the forefront of trialing new technology with children. I became a leading teacher with the local authority and teachers from all over the neighbourhood would come to the school and see us on how to integrate technology in Maths lessons and how we were using it to inspire and develop children.
I have had the experience of working for all types of schools – be it a village school with just three classes for all age groups to secondary schools with 2000 pupils in areas of huge deprivation and with leaders who are both exemplary but also with the leaders who were less successful.
That’s actually what inspired me to go into leadership. I thought if I can go back in a school and be the best teacher I could be then I can have an impact on a larger number of children. And so I applied to do the National professional qualification for headship and was accepted to do that.
Why choose Dubai though?
I actually chose Kings’and not Dubai. For me it’s the school and Kings’ happens to be in Dubai. The academic priorities of the school being at the core is vital. The thing I love about Kings’ though is the practice of providing the best for every child in the right way. Once I met the group’s leadership team and saw their vision for the three schools, it inspired me to work with them. As a parent, as well as an educational leader, I am also excited about my children being educated at Kings’.
What from Malaysia and America will you be bringing to Kings’?
In Malaysia I learnt about the celebration of a multicultural society and how by celebrating everybody’s individual heritage, culture, background, you get a greater understanding of where everybody comes from. I mean that both physically and metaphorically. I loved that we had 18 national holidays and how everybody’s difference became a collective strength. I would love to see that here in such an internationally diverse school.
From America I would take spirit. It is something that we have in Britain but I don’t think it's there to such a great extent as it is in America. The house system gives you the spirit to a certain extent but in America it’s the spirit of being a part of the institution, the pride of wearing the tie or the badge and that together we would always be greater. '
The whole school will turn out for the Varsity football team game and that expectation within the US that you cheer each other on and you have each others' backs, I think it's something more unique to that setting but it can definitely be transferred here.
Would we see you in any of the classrooms teaching?
My aim is to always maintain some child contact. Over the years I have taught many different things, originally I was a junior school trained specialist, teaching year 3,4,5 and 6 – Maths and learning technologies and some coding. However, Early Years has become a huge passion and if I ever have a bad day and I am spending too much time doing administration, you’ll find me down in the early years with my arm sleeves rolled up and my hands in the water or the sand, working with the children in some hands-on learning.
You have taught learning technologies, what’s your take on increasing use of technology in schools?
Technology is for learning, not for its own sake. It should only be used where it’s enhancing the learning that’s going on in the classroom. It shouldn’t be a substitute, so if you could do it for example by writing then why write on an iPad?
All children need a tool kit, there will always be a time when they need to be able to use hand writing, however, it's physically impossible for us to interview someone on an international space station without using technology.
We need to be using technology where we can modify learning to allow us to do something that previously we couldn’t do. There is a digital curriculum that needs to be taught, else we would be doing our children a disservice. We have to teach them how to learn, how to do what they will need to know and we need to challenge them with the use of new applications.
For me coding is a language, which will allow the children to communicate in a world which will be very technology based.
What will be your top priorities when you join?
To start with it will be to watch, look and listen and see what’s working at an excellent level already. There are many things in the school's latest KHDA report that are moving absolutely in the right direction. My job is to get out of the way of those things.
There are however other areas in the KHDA report that need attention, and they will be our prioritiy. My focus when I first arrive will be ensuring they are being addressed.
We have had positive conversations with Arabic and Islamic leaders, for example, to talk about how we'll develop to ensure children get an exemplary experience. I'll also be studying Kings’ Dubai assessment model which has worked extraordinarily well and using the best bits of that.
Who is Kate as a leader; do you have a leadership style?
I am a very personable person, I am very interested in the human being behind every conversation, so whether that be a three year old or a parent, a governor, a teacher - I think lots of the behaviours we see from the people are absolutely symptomatic of how they are feeling at any time. Separating the behaviour from the person in every situation is important. Compassion and empathy in my opinion is key.
I am also very research based in my practice. I usually give very clear guidance on what research says and look to see how we can make that work for the children in our school. Fundamentally I believe in that balance of guidance with autonomy - allowing students to develop mastery on their own.
Finally I really try to celebrate the achievements of where we are but with an eye on where we want to be next. As a leader I try to celebrate what’s been done before, but also build on that by looking at the future.