Colin Sinclair, headteacher at MORNA International College on Ibiza shares with us his ambitious plans for the school’s future
Morna International College is a private co-education school set in the idyllic heart of Ibiza. The school delivers the Uk National Curriculum to students from 3 to 18 years, encompassing 20 different nationalities and providing a truly international and caring environment for families living on the island. Colin Sinclair has been head teacher at Morna International College since Autumn 2012, and tells Lucas Fox about the school and the ambitious changes and expansion building programme that the College is about to embark on.
JC: You joined Morna International College in Autumn 2012. What drew you to the school from the perspective of a Headteacher?
CS: I was drawn to the potential of the school and the scope for continued development. The expansion plans were presented to me and I wanted to lead the school through the next phase of its development. My children attend the school and I also wanted the opportunity to be involved in their education whilst shaping the school for the years to come. I have a professional and personal attachment to the school that is important to many of the parents as they know the school is improving.
JC: The college moved to its current Santa Gertrudis campus in 2004, why was that, and what kind of facilities does the school offer?
CS: I’m not sure why the school moved to the current site, as I wasn’t involved with the school at that time. From my understanding, a major factor was the location (centre of the island) and the increased space. Regarding facilities, the has a purpose build Nursery, 8 permanent classrooms, a science lab, an art room with a “dark-room”, two sports pitches, a small mini-gym and a state-of-the-art ICT suite with Apple Macs. We recently installed Wi-Fi across the entire school site and we have introduced iPads into the curriculum. We are very fortunate to have wonderful outside areas for the children to enjoy including a fitness area within a protected forest.
JC: What is the philosophy of the school?
CS: The philosophy of the school is for every child to be happy, successful and challenged so they fulfil their learning potential. We focus on improving the academic, creative and social development of our students through a caring and supportive education. Children learn best when they are happy and supported and we place a great emphasis on ensuring we support our children and their families.
JC: What curriculum does the school follow? What language are pupils taught in?
CS: We follow the English National Curriculum from EYFS to the end of KS3 (Y9). National Curriculum attainment levels are used to judge progress and attainment. Our examination courses are IGCSE for KS4 (Y10 and Y11 students) and “A” levels for our 6th form students (Y12 & 13). We do not offer the IB curriculum. The students are taught in English apart from Modern Foreign Language (MFL) lessons. Spanish is taught from Nursery until Y13 and German is introduced from Y4.
JC: Are foreign parents concerned that their children may not be getting sufficient level of Spanish?
CS: There are many benefits to learning in an international school and there are also challenges to continually develop. There may be some parents who would like more Spanish taught and we have increased the quantity and quality of learning in Spanish by employing additional staff who can support the different levels of Spanish speaking students. Conversely, there are Spanish parents who may like more English or German. The school population has significantly changed over the past two years with more non-Spanish or international (British, German, Dutch, French, Italian etc…) families adding to the cultural diversity of the school. The vast majority of the families on the island choose the school because of the holistic education we provide, and an important part of that is the ability to learn additional languages.
JC: How can parents gauge the academic success of the school?
CS: Gauging academic success within an international school environment is more challenging than gauging academic success compared to a school in a family’s native country. I am an advocate of judging academic success on the progress made rather than the level of attainment achieved. The difference is significant and requires further explanation. We have students sitting English standardised examinations regardless of the length of time they have studied within the English system.
Let’s use the example of a German student who arrives at MIC at the age of 12 (Y8) with limited English. The student works hard over the next four years resulting in nine IGCSE “C” grades. From my perspective, that represents outstanding academic success equal to an English student who gets nine IGCSE “A” grades. We focus on every individual student and assess their academic level on entry and then set realistic and challenging learning goals in order that they make progress in their learning. This is one of the challenges in leading an international school, as the “raw examination data” is often only part of the success of the school. Parents should, in my view, discuss their children’s learning journey with the school and have realistic learning expectations. Successful learning is more than examination grades – it is about continual development and supporting children to achieve their goals.
JC: How is a pupil’s day typically structured?
CS: School starts at 8.55am and ends at 3.35 (primary) and 3.45 (secondary). The primary children have two playtimes and a lunch break whereas the secondary students have one break and a lunch break. Lessons are organized by 30 minute blocks and are usually 1 hour in length. More importantly, there is a range of academic and creative learning opportunities including P.E., art and music. There are lots of happy children who enjoy coming to school as a result of the positive relationships between the children and adults who make MIC so special.
JC: How does the school ensure that children are sufficiently integrated into the local community?
CS: The school has a good relationship with the parents’ association (AMPAMIC) and we hold fetes and charity events throughout the year. We are developing ways of establishing links with local sports clubs and social groups within the local community. I recently invited the Director from Mistral, the independent Spanish school on the island, to have a look round MIC and I am hoping to develop an educational partnership in the future.
JC: Approximately what is the ratio of local pupils to non-Spanish pupils? How many nationalities do you currently have within the college?
CS: The ratio is 65% international students and 35% Spanish students. We have 16 different nationalities within our school population.
JC: Approximately what percentage of children go on to University from the school and do many of them go on to higher education outside of Spain?
CS: Nearly all of the students go onto university from MIC. In 2013 we supported Y13 students to university places in the UK, Geneva, and Spain.
JC: Can you describe an average day in your role as Head of the school?
CS: I usually arrive around 7.45am and leave around 6pm. Unfortunately; I work often work once the children have gone to bed (much to the dismay of my wife). Each day is different and although I try to structure my day in advance there are always changes with parental meetings, discussions with staff, issues with students, emails, writing reports and of course, teaching! I still love teaching and although I don’t teach as much as I used to, it is still an important part of my day as the students – and teachers, appreciate the fact that I still enjoy teaching. My role is very enjoyable, immensely challenging and hugely varied with every day being different.
JC: What do you feel have been the greatest changes implemented in the school so far in your time as Head?
CS: The changes that have had the greatest impact are associated to the quality of teaching and learning and the structural changes within the school. I have implemented a new leadership structure within the school and created middle leadership and management positions, which are having a really positive impact on the children’s learning. We have invested in a performance management or appraisal process and staff are experiencing quality continued professional development opportunities. Finally, there is a more rigorous approach to assessing, monitoring and tracking the children’s learning progress. All these changes will result in more successful students. I believe the school’s reputation is continually improving and I am proud of the way the school is evolving. The staff are the key ingredient to any successful school and I am very fortunate to have inherited such a hard-working and caring group of teachers and support staff. My job is to lead them in their continual development so we provide an outstanding education for every one of our students – and their families.
JC: The college is about to embark on an ambitious expansion building programme, can you tell us about the plans, and how these will enhance the existing college campus and daily life?
CS: Yes, the plans are very exciting. The expansion programme will provide us with first class specialist teaching and learning facilities to add to our existing rustic charm. The plans include an indoor sports facility, specialist science labs, a D.T. room, a library, additional teaching rooms and administrative offices. The secondary school students will benefit hugely from the increased facilities; as it is important to continually develop the facilities so we can provide a range of specialist examination subjects. The growth of the school during the past two years has led to a sustainable primary school with a two-form entry form Y1-6. The expansion programme will enable us to focus on providing a first-class specialist secondary education curriculum with additional specialist subjects being offered.
We aim to create a campus-style school environment with excellent facilities for the students during the school day as well as creating improved extended provision for the students and their families. One of the developments I am particularly excited about is the “Morna Café” which will be a business venture for the students. The Café will be located in the centre of the school and will provide the parents with a meeting point to socialize and wait for their children. There will be Wi-Fi access and we aim to develop the Café into a business hub if there is demand.
JC: Many of the proposed changes will give parents and those within the community a greater opportunity to be involved in daily school life – is this an important part of the vision for the future of the school?
CS: Very much so. I am very keen to create a learning environment that also provides sport, recreation and social opportunities for our students and their families. We could offer Yoga, Pilates, Dance etc… to the parents during the school day and directly after school. We will also consider opening the school at the weekends and during school holiday times if there is sufficient demand.
JC: What extra curriculum activities does the school offer?
CS: We offer a range of extra-curricular activities including homework club, sports clubs (tennis, football, fitness and basketball), music lessons, science club, iPad club, creative arts and language lessons.
JC: In 2013, the school saw a 28% increase in students, mainly from the Uk, the Netherlands and Germany. What has driven this increase? What brings the majority of families to the island?
CS: I would like to think Morna International College is helping to attract families to the island. Many of our new families have friends and colleagues with children already attending the school and the word is spreading that we are continually evolving and moving forward in how we support the children in their learning. Ibiza is a beautiful island and offers so much for families. The weather is fantastic, the island is safe and family-orientated and the transport links have improved during the past few years with direct British Airways flights to London City.
JC: What are the greatest advantages and benefits for a family from, or living in Ibiza, to give their children a British education in such an international setting?
CS: There are many fantastic advantages for a family considering re-locating to Ibiza. The climate is wonderful; the island is family-friendly with an abundance of sporting opportunities within every village, the beaches are breathtaking and the jewel in the crown is Morna International College! Seriously, the school offers a major advantage to families considering moving to one of the Balearic Islands and with the imminent expansion programme on the horizon, things are only going to get better for families looking for a British Education within an international college.
JC: Finally, can you describe Morna International College in three words?
CS: Progressive, supportive, caring.
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