Read on to find out what they love about Dover Court International School and what new plans they have in store!
Dover Court International School (DCIS) recently welcomed two new Heads of School to its family – and the HoneyKids team had the chance to speak to them! Mr. David Buckley joined the school as Head of Primary, whereas Mrs. Rachel Edwards is the school’s new Head of Secondary. We caught up with the two Heads of School to find out more about them, what they love about DCIS, as well as what future plans they have in store for the school.
Hello Mr. Buckley and Mrs. Edwards! Can you tell us a little about yourselves?
Buckley: Hello! I’m David Buckley, originally from South Wales in the UK. I began my teaching career in 2000, teaching for a number of years in the UK. Since then, I’ve taken on international teaching roles in Thailand and Hong Kong. My wife, Catherine, and I made the decision to move our family of five to Singapore in August 2020. After working at UWCSEA East Campus, I joined DCIS recently as Head of Primary. Catherine serves as DCIS’ Head of Mathematics, and our three children are also attending the school. I enjoy spending my spare time with my family and friends exploring Singapore, especially through nature walks and sampling the number of culinary delights the country has to offer.
Edwards: Hi, I’m Rachel Edwards, originally from the UK as well. I’ve been teaching and leading in Asia for the last 24 years in Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan, Indonesia, China, and now Singapore. I’m married with two sons, one of them currently attends DCIS in the Sixth Form, while the other is at university in Auckland, New Zealand. I’ve been extremely privileged to live and work in incredible countries, and I have learned so much and met many extraordinary people along the way.
Lovely to meet you both! We know it’s only been a few months, but can you share with us what your favourite aspects of DCIS are?
Edwards: I really love that there’s a strong community ‘feel’ here at DCIS. It’s the people and the ‘can do’ attitude that’s part of the school’s DNA.
Buckley: I agree. DCIS is clearly a truly special community to be a part of. There are many aspects of the school that I’ve already come to love. However, it’s really the inclusive nature of the school that stands out. From day one, I was proud to be part of a school that demonstrated a welcoming ethos. It was heartening to see children going out of their way to greet and support their fellow students and classmates as they joined for their first day. I recall a Year 1 student confidently offering their hand to one of our new reception students, assuring them that they knew the way to their class, before walking off hand-in-hand (with myself following behind).
As I continue to learn more about the school, I’ve been engaged in a number of ‘cherish and change’ meetings to create a picture of what we need to cherish and hold onto; and what are the areas that we could seek to build upon. From these meetings, there has been a clear pattern from all involved that the supportive and positive nature of children and adults alike is something that DCIS excels in and quite rightly prides itself on.
That actually brings us to our next question. DCIS calls itself “a school with inclusion at its heart” – can you tell us, in your own words, what makes it so?
Buckley: Many schools talk about inclusion or have inclusive cultures in their guiding statements. However, the reality of their admissions criteria contradict these claims. DCIS is different in this aspect. We recognise that every child is unique and may require different approaches to help them get the most out of their learning experiences. As such, our school has a much broader range of provision to ensure that we can accommodate the many different educational needs that children have. This is facilitated by a passionate and knowledgeable team of teachers and paraprofessionals, including onsite educational psychologists, occupational therapists, as well as speech and language therapists working in specialised learning spaces. DCIS recognises and embraces diversity in all its forms, whether that be neurodiversity, cultural diversity, or linguistic diversity in celebrating our bilingual and multilingual learners. We know that our inclusive approach and diversity benefits all of our community, creating a fair reflection of society and an opportunity for us to recognise and learn from our differences as well as commonalities.
Edwards: I came to DCIS because it’s an inclusive international school that’s committed – in very real terms – to personalising learning. Like what Mr. Buckley said, we recognise every child is unique. In a similar vein, we believe that success and challenge look very different for every child. We reject the ‘one size fits all’ school experience at DCIS, which is why we offer different pathways for our students, as the well-being of all is a priority. A lot of schools talk about providing real world learning experiences. Well, I can confidently say that the real and diverse world is right here on our campus of over 60 nationalities. I see staff striving to provide opportunities for students to achieve every day, and it’s really humbling.
We read that “the entitlement of all children to feel safe and belong” is your key approach in schools, Mrs. Edwards. Could you tell us more about how you want to develop this further in DCIS?
Edwards: The primary wish of every parent is that their child will be safe and happy at school. Ask any new student what they’re worried about the most, and it will most definitely be not making friends. The teenage years bring unavoidable challenges, so it’s even more important to create conditions where children are heard and feel supported. We already have great support and programmes for our students at DCIS, including staff who will go above and beyond to help. But every school should be striving for better and that is my personal mantra. We know that when people feel valued and have a strong sense of belonging, they will be their authentic selves, and then their school experience is literally limitless. I am particularly interested in developing student agency and voice further. You really can’t meet the needs of students unless you are partnering with them in learning more about their experience, making improvements that will actually make a visible difference, and harnessing them as well to build a strong peer community. I want every child to know that they are heard and belong at DCIS, and I am looking forward to developing our approach with our team here.
The next question is for you, Mr. Buckley. We heard that you’re passionate about creating innovative and positive school cultures – can you share with us some of the plans for implementing this in Dover Court?
Buckley: As I joined DCIS in August, the most important thing for me to do first is to listen and learn from those who know the school best, e.g. the staff, students, and parent community. Creating positive school cultures relies on establishing trust, as well as a shared belief that together we can continue to grow and improve. It’s not something that is done to someone but requires working and learning together collaboratively with colleagues and the community.
In many ways, the lifting of Covid restrictions has acted as a catalyst, increasing our capacity to connect and build a positive and innovative culture. The opportunity to engage in school trips, interact with other year groups at playtime, and the return of assemblies have all supported our sense of community and belonging.
We know that as educators, we want to make our students’ lives better, and so we place them and their learning at the heart of our decision making. This includes having high expectations of ourselves and others as professionals to continuously reflect on and aspire to be the best practitioners we can be. As Mrs. Edwards mentioned, the ‘one size fits all’ isn’t applicable here. It doesn’t work for our students, and the same can be said for us as adults. Thus, we need to provide personalised approaches to professional learning to create innovative and positive school cultures. One step we have already made is the establishment of a new approach to professional reflection and growth amongst our team. This recognises our commitment to evaluating our practice and driving our own professional growth to enable the best outcomes for all our students.
One last question – and this is for Mrs. Edwards. Dover Court’s success was outstanding for the graduating class of 2022. Is there anything that you think the class of 2023 can learn from their seniors?
Edwards: Yes, our International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme 2022 exam results were absolutely outstanding. It highlights the efforts of the students and staff, past and present, who nurtured them along the way. Our BTEC learners also achieved amazing results.
At DCIS, we stress personal growth instead of competing with others. We want students to experience the pride of achieving more than they thought possible for themselves rather than more than their peers. The class of 2022 will certainly be able to share the importance of time management, avoiding procrastination, and connecting with teachers as key skills for their futures beyond DCIS. There are always times during the final year when the challenge seems too great, and the deadlines just keep rolling in. However, the tremendous success of our 2022 graduating class is a testament to the impact of self-belief and resilience.
Thank you so much for your time, Mr. Buckley and Mrs. Edwards!
This post is in partnership with Dover Court International School.