When your child joins BIC Sant Agustí, they join a family, a home from home in a safe, secure and positive environment. My priority is that all children will believe in themselves, push their limits, experience life, conquer their goals and above all, be happy, seeing opportunities instead of obstacles.Janice Short - Principal, BIC Sant Agustí
You have been newly appointed as Principal at Baleares International College, Sant Agustí. How would you describe your first four months in the School?
I began my role as Principal in August 2020, so it has been a very exciting and interesting few months. It is always exciting when you start any new job; even if you have carried out the same role before, things are always a little different as you have to learn how things work quickly! That is exactly the same in a school. It is important to get to know all the people involved in a school as quickly as possible, so that was one of my priorities. Children are so open and honest and it was a delight to learn all about the children at BIC Sant Agustí as individuals. Forming and working as a team alongside all the staff has been very rewarding as everyone has had so much to learn together in the last few months.
The first term was incredibly busy as I learnt all about this wonderful school, although it will take me a full academic year to become familiar with everything, as we go through the year together. Everyone has been very helpful, helping me to settle in. As with every new Principal, some things have changed and some things have stayed the same, but my goal is to make BIC Sant Agusti the best it can be, building on the solid foundations it has already.
We have all had to accept education and schooling under the restrictions of Covid 19, and to be honest, this did make it more difficult for me in Term 1 as not only was I starting a role in a new school, but had to learn how the restrictions would affect us in school, which were new to everyone. However, I was not the only one in this situation, which always makes you feel better and it was advantageous to have the support of our company, Orbital Education, and the organisations to which we are accredited, COBIS and NABSS.
We have had a largely successful first term, so we are now ready for the rest of the year!
We would love to know a little bit more about you. What has been your most proud and major success throughout your successful career?
My career has taken me to various roles in education and to various parts of the world, so I honestly cannot think of one major success throughout it as there are so many special moments and wonderful memories.
I started my career as a teacher in a primary school in Wales, UK, where I stayed for many years, teaching all subjects, specialising in maths and science, but also taking children to many places to play in netball competitions, on outdoor adventure education visits, taking part in Welsh competitions called Eisteddfods, and visiting London and Cardiff.
I then moved to teach in a university to lecture in teacher training as well as the Early Childhood Studies and Education Studies degrees. This was a very rewarding experience as it enabled me to use my experiences to train new teachers and people wanting to work with young children- including some students who were actually in my class as primary school children!
After some years in lecturing I returned to teaching in a primary school, but this time in Cairo, Egypt, which was my first experience in international teaching, which has always been a goal for me. Living and teaching in Cairo was culturally very different from what I was used to, although educationally of course, it was very similar. This experience made me think about inclusion and diversity and really challenged me in many ways, an experience for which I will always be grateful.
After Cairo, I moved to Malawi, as Head of Primary, to set up a new International Primary school from its beginning, working with a remarkable lady who had the vision to open a school for children to give them an education and a goal to improve their life. Living and teaching in Malawi taught me so many things about myself, as well as overcoming the challenges of opening a brand new school with limited resources initially and then building it up to become very successful.
From Malawi, I returned to Europe, to Gran Canaria, where I spent a wonderful 5 years as Head of Primary at an International School, fostering excellent relationships with children, staff and parents . During this time, I became a school inspector for Nabss which ensures standards are adhered to.
There have been many times when I feel I have had successes throughout my career, but the proudest moments have always been connected with other people - children achieving a certificate, a child suddenly realising they can do something or have understood something, a student becoming a teacher and standing in front of their own class for the first time, a teacher overcoming their fear of presenting to others in a staff meeting, the list is endless.
Simply put, on reflection, my proudest moments have been watching others achieve after some kind of input from me.
What drove you to accept this new challenge as Principal of Baleares International College?
As I said, I had a very successful five years at my previous school, but I am a firm believer that change is good for everyone. As a teacher, Head or Principal, you can become static in what you are doing and I think it is always positive to move on before that happens. Schools need new ideas; they cannot keep going as they are or standards can begin to fall.
When I saw the advertisement for the role of Principal here, I felt drawn to it. BIC Sant Agustí is my type of school and I was ready for a new challenge. When you are teaching internationally, the country you are living in, as well as the school, are both important factors. Even though Mallorca and Gran Canaria are different, the cultures are similar and I knew what to expect. After visiting Baleares International College, and meeting the children, staff and some parents, I felt I could be very happy here, while recognising areas in the school which I thought I could have some influence over to improve. The school has excellent foundations on which to build and it is exciting to look towards the future to see how far we can go!
You are the Principal of a wonderful Early Years and Primary specialised School in Palma, known for its family and community feel, could you tell us a little bit more about it?
Baleares International College, Sant Agusti, is the only dedicated British Primary school on Mallorca, so we have a very special position. BIC is an Early Years Foundation Stage and Primary school, so our children start with us at the tender age of 3 years and stay with us until they are 11 years old, when the majority transfer to our sister school, BIC Sa Porrassa, for their secondary education.
Everything in our school is targeted at Primary children such as the specific curriculum, the style of education, the behaviour systems, the playgrounds and even the furniture! The school community is a huge part of Sant Agusti -the school is small which gives us huge advantages of smaller classes, specialised dedicated Early Years and Primary teachers, a feeling of being part of a family and a closeness which is difficult to find in larger schools. Everyone in the school knows everyone else, which feeds into the special community feeling. We obviously have siblings in the school, but all the children constantly refer to the school family, as well as their actual family. For the children, school becomes home from home and the communication between parents and school is strong. We strongly believe that a happy child will make a good learner and therefore be successful in whatever they choose to do.
What is the role of a parent in shaping a child’s education? How do you see this encouraged at Baleares International College?
As previously mentioned, the link between school and parents at Baleares International College, Sant Agusti are strong. Communication is a key factor in establishing and maintaining positive links between parents and teachers and we use various forms of communication to do this. Normally we hold activities such as parent -teacher coffee mornings, Christmas lunches and other joint activities, all of which help to bring the community closer together but obviously these have had to be postponed for now. We are still holding Friends of the School meetings, parent evenings, zoom meetings, individual consultations and all teachers meet the parents at the gates twice a day, so any socially distanced day to day communication can happen then.
The role of parents is vitally important in a child’s education. Although teachers are the specialist educators, parents know their child better than anyone, so that link between parents and school is vital, to enable information to be passed on both ways. Parental support is encouraged, as it can really make a difference to a child when they feel that a parent is really interested in what they are doing at school and what they are learning. The first years of a child’s education are the most important, as that is when the basic foundations are built, so when parents and school work together in partnership, children can benefit from a unique experience in their school life.
One problem that we do sometimes face is when parents do not speak English, or parents do not understand methods we use in the British system, especially in maths! If this is the case, we encourage parents to use the webinars, and to speak to the teachers whenever possible; there is always someone to translate if necessary.
You are passionate for education with a strong belief that every child can receive a challenging education within strong inclusive values. Can you tell us a little bit more about this?
It is true that I am very passionate about education; teaching is not just a job for me, it is what I do and what I am. I have been teaching for quite a number of years now, and every day there is always another surprise and I learn something new, often from a child!
Using the British curriculum, children can be educated to the best of their ability. As well as learning the core subjects such as English, science, maths and the foundation subjects including art, music and PE, we also introduce the children to areas such as thinking skills, problem solving, growth mindset and positivity. I firmly believe that each child will find their own special passion, and although that might not be in an academic subject, if they have the passion they will be able to make it a success. We are a non-selective school but we want all children to have a positive attitude to their learning and to enjoy their learning, so they will become lifelong learners.
Through our Social, Moral, Spiritual and Cultural education the children are introduced to ways of looking after themselves, including financially, ways of dealing with problems and how to be the best person they can be. We celebrate our international cultures, including Spanish and Mallorcan and are passionate about inclusion, diversity and acceptance. One of our key words is “Respect” and this is evident throughout the school. Every child can achieve -they should aim high and work hard and be the best that they can be.
What are you looking forward to this year?
This year I am looking forward to seeing the children at BIC Sant Agustí making good progress academically, but also growing in confidence and being able to be flexible in their approach to learning, especially under the changes and restrictions. Children are resilient and have already shown us that they are adapting to the changes in their school, environment and education.
I am looking forward to continuing to develop my relationship with my Sant Agustí team of staff, who have so much to offer in so many different areas, as well as developing my relationships with parents, and other agencies such as the local nurseries.
I am looking forward to embedding my role as Principal, moving the school forward by introducing new ideas and some changes, looking to improve standards in those areas which need improving. All schools have room for improvement; if they say they have not, then they are not looking at themselves in enough depth!
On a personal note, I am also looking forward to enjoying the lovely island of Mallorca, meeting its people, seeing its scenery and enjoying the coast and the mountains.
And finally, would you like to send a message to the readers?
I would like to thank everyone for the welcome I have received in the first term. It has been quite challenging, mainly due to the current restrictions, but already hugely rewarding.
I believe we should always try to be the best we can be - aim high!