Established in 1845 and known for its heritage and tradition, Brighton College has received many awards the most recent one being named as the "Most Forward-Thinking School in Britain" in the 2017 Independent Schools' awards in The Week magazine.
Marco Longmore has been appointed as the Principal of Brighton Dubai and brings with him more than 25 years of teaching experience.
WhichSchoolAdvisor spent some time with Marco to find out more about his role, leadership style and vision for the school.
I was educated in a comprehensive school and then went to Edinburgh University to study history and politics and fell in love with medieval history. Mind you, I went to university saying to myself that I wasn’t going to be a lawyer, as my father was one, and not going to be a teacher as my mother was a teacher. But I loved my subjects so much that I went to teacher training college as I wanted to share the love of those subjects. I was then offered a position at George Heriot’s School, which was founded in 1624.
I was then the Head of History and Modern Studies at George Watson’s College school for 7 years and then moved to London, as Senior Deputy Head at Alleyn’s School, before returning to the Scottish capital to lead The Edinburgh Academy. And now I have come to Dubai to found a school and a school of stature. What’s interesting is that the youngest school that I have worked at was built in 1870s. For me as a historian, the significance of creating an institution that will have an impact in the educational and societal landscape, in capital cities like Edinburgh and London and then the dynamism of Dubai, is a real opportunity and that’s why I am here.
I hope that people will recognise that it’s inclusive and broad. Basing it on my previous roles, I have always said that the achievements of the school are based on the hard work of others. It’s recognising that schools are collectives. They bring together people with different skills and use different talents, hopefully with a shared aspiration.
My leadership is in some ways to try and give a structure in which others will flourish with regards to developing aspects of the curriculum and co-curricular life. People were kind in many of the comments they made when I left my last position, one of the aspects fed back to me was the ability to give people the room to grow in themselves to benefit the school and that’s what I am hoping to do here as well.
I have never ascribed to a school that claims to have a specialism in a particular area because if it does that then it means that a segment of the school society could feel alienated. So if it’s a sporting school and they are not sporty, that's a problem.
I am very much for a broad base of aspiration for the pupils. I want our leavers to walk forward in life with confidence but without arrogance. And whatever they achieve academically, in sport or in arts, if they can look at themselves in the mirror with confidence and not arrogance then we have achieved what we have set out to do.
In my previous roles, I took the decision to be a super-numerary history teacher. What I mean by that is I didn’t want a situation in my role which inevitably calls me out of a classroom on a regular basis, so to commit to a presence in the timetable is doing a disservice to the people if I am not there.
So I would wait until the second term of the school and then I would take each of the entry classes at year 7, a 2 to 3 week module of work, which could be on medieval castles and that was relevant. It allowed me to know the students, allowed the pupils to know me as a teacher rather than the head teacher and also it was a benefit to the staff as they were off the timetable for those lessons which they liked. It’s an important thing to allow colleagues, pupils, parents to see that that’s where my background is. In reality the demands of leadership in school settings are huge, so it needs to be balanced. I’ll do something similar here as well.
The structure for oversees Brighton schools is different. Its not a franchise by name, it’s a brand of Brighton College – in practice it means that it has an overlapping governance between Brighton in the UK and the partner here in the UAE which is Bloom Education.
The curriculum design and structure is based on the UK and I have received the curriculum outline from the UK updated to this date, which gives us the basis on which our educational provisions are going to be delivered. Of course that’s fine for the UK but it needs to be nuanced to the UAE.
So the benefit of having our experience in Abu Dhabi and Al Ain is it allows a platform for me to understand how best to deliver the curriculum. On curriculum, governance and in terms of quality assurance, I work with the very senior management team at Brighton. A number of these key individuals are regular visitors to the UAE and assist in the maintenance of quality standards in educational outcomes. That’s across all Brighton schools.
Well, we follow the English National Curriculum and offer A levels as well as IGCSE exams. The curriculum is designed over a standard working 5-day week and here you have the national requirement of Arabic language, Islamic studies and social studies. That’s a significant part of that educational time that needs to be factored.
I see this as a positive because it creates relevance of education here in understanding the context of the country and the region. So, we want to make a real difference with the way we deliver language and cultural understanding here in Dubai.
There are a few Brighton college themes - one of them is academic excellence. We pursue that with a curriculum designed to stretch and develop able pupils but students of different abilities as well because when you talk about an able pupil its too simplistic to say a child is able in all aspects. Of course they have strengths and weaknesses and it's about tapping into those and developing them across the breadth of curriculum.
We also have a real sense of innovation in terms of educational experience. So one of the features of Brighton Abu Dhabi which mirrors Brighton UK is the creative learning classroom and centre. What we are looking at there is not just a sense of pupils identifying areas where they can be innovative, it's actually studying the process of learning and letting students understand their own process of learning and the diversity of that. One of the good features of modern education is the recognition that pupils learn in different ways.
We also then have attention to detail when it comes to individual needs. And beyond that there’s a real emphasis in on kindness. Now kindness, often by some, is misunderstood as being soft, that’s not what I mean. I mean pupils learn by how they experience kindness through others but also having it demonstrated and exhibited.
Brighton’s students are encouraged to understand that they have a privileged position by way of having a Brighton education. This brings with it responsibility. The tangibles are down to staff and the school community to work out how this quality of empathy can be demonstrated here and nuancing it into context. It’s a key aspect of founding this school.