MEET THE HEADTEACHER
Headteacher Katherine Healy
Please tell us a bit about yourself.
I have had an international upbringing in that I am half Korean, half British, was born in Singapore and, with my father’s globetrotting job, moved around the world to countries including Denmark, Belgium, Hong-Kong and China throughout my childhood. These formative experiences of different countries and cultures have instilled an open, international mindset and one which has always seen Asia as an integral part of my identity.
Both my parents instilled an adventurous spirit in me, having independently taken themselves out of their comfort zones, defying the expectations put upon them by their families or cultures at the time. My father left his family and the UK at the age of 24 to begin a career which took him all over the world for the following 35 years. My mother left her family and country at the age of 26 to marry a foreigner and embark on an international life with him. Both were quite ‘rebellious’ acts at the time!
Thailand has been a country with which my family forged a connection in the early 90s, regularly visiting Hua Hin and Phuket for family holidays from Hong Kong. Even at a young age, I was struck by the people, culture and traditions so, when my father decided to emigrate to Bangkok in 2003, my sister and I were delighted. Since then, we have been annual visitors and, in more recent years I have visited with my husband Chris. His instant love of the country and, in particular, the food! made the decision to accept the position of Headteacher at Si Ri Panya International School an easier and very much supported one.
What attracted you to teaching? How has your background influenced you as an educator?
I attended international schools in Europe and private boarding schools in Suffolk and Cambridge in the UK as a child and teenager, so have a broad experience of different educational systems and an understanding of what it means to be a third culture kid. My professional teaching career has been solely in the UK state school sector.
I confess I did not always want to follow in the family tradition of teaching! Three out of four grandparents were teachers and headteachers and I remember being emphatic in my negative response to my mother when I was a child as to whether I would consider becoming a teacher. However, I believe teaching is a true vocation and I was clearly drawn to it as soon as I left school when I volunteered for six months at Arniko Secondary Boarding School in Kathmandu, Nepal. Upon graduating from university in Nottingham, I decided to reconnect with my mother’s country and taught English as a Foreign Language just outside of Seoul for two years. This cemented my desire to make it my profession and I enrolled to study for my PGCE in Primary Education at The Institute of Education, London in 2004.
What’s your educational background?
The first seven years of my teaching career were spent in a one form entry inner-city primary school in north London. I specialised in EAL and literacy, taking on the role of Literacy Coordinator after 2 years. The school then expanded to become an all-through academy and I was offered the opportunity to move into the secondary department as the whole school Literacy Coordinator and teacher of English and Humanities. This was a steep learning curve; the timetable, curriculum and whole school systems were completely different and I was now delivering CPD to a staff body of over one hundred. I became responsible for the Nurture Class curriculum; a group of Year 7 and Year 8 pupils who struggled to access the secondary curriculum and were taught in a smaller, more supportive setting. Here, I found my primary background hugely helpful in that primary strategies work, no matter the age of the pupil. This training and experience helped further when I then took on the additional responsibility of Transition Coordinator, arranging and overseeing the transition programme of the Year 6 pupils from our feeder primary schools into Year 7. During this time I became an English examiner for the AQA exam board.
I have been a Deputy Head for over five years now at a small SEN school in London for pupils with autism. This has been my most challenging role to date, but one which has enabled me to learn and develop beyond my expectations. The school is a member of the Challenge Partners organisation; a national partnership of schools committed to reducing educational inequality and improving the life chances of all children through collaboration, challenge and professional development. I have been a reviewer of other schools on three separate occasions, relishing the chance to gain a deep insight into how they operate and learn valuable lessons on school improvement strategies.
How has your journey so far equipped you to be Head of Si Ri Panya International School?
I believe that in gaining my experience and insight into every stage of a child’s education (primary, secondary and now the SEN sector), I have built a unique skillset giving me a greater perception and understanding of the journey of a learner; the important foundations in order to achieve and succeed in later years, and also what barriers can hinder a child from reaching their potential. Si Ri Panya International School, is at the beginning of an incredibly exciting journey of expansion, my experiences to date put me in a strong position to lead the school forward. The small, family-like nature of the school with a close-knit, supportive team is the best way to have a real focus and lasting impact on each pupil.
Do you have a personal educational philosophy?
The school’s ethos ties very closely to my own; to empower all pupils to respect, value and develop a love of learning through a broad and rich curriculum in a supportive environment. Essentially, schools should do two things: the first is to prepare pupils for life beyond the school walls where they are contributing to society and caring for their environment and fellow world citizens. The second is to instill a lifelong love of learning and equip pupils with the skills and strategies to navigate and manoeuvre through life and the inevitable hurdles it will throw at them.