Jamie McNamara photo

Jamie McNamara

Deputy Head of Primary School

Dulwich College Seoul

What attracted you to Dulwich College International in Asia?

I originally joined Dulwich College Beijing as a Year Leader in 2009. I can remember the very pleasant jump in living standards that I experienced after living and working in Inner London for the first part of my career; I couldn’t quite believe that my new life was for real! I was no longer chasing my tail at the end of each month trying to get the bills and the mortgage paid and I was able to explore a whole new culture and language. I was initially worried that moving abroad, although very positive for my living standards, would damage my career and that I would fall out of the loop of current practice. As it turned out my initial worries were unfounded as the Dulwich College International group is committed to ongoing professional learning. Since I joined the group I have completed my Masters in Education with the Institute of Education in London. In 2012 I gained a promotion to Deputy Head and moved to Dulwich College Seoul. I am still enjoying life within the Dulwich group and it would be a difficult decision to move away.

How do you find the atmosphere among the teachers in the school? How involved are you with colleagues in other DCI schools?

I have found the teachers here at Dulwich College Seoul to be supportive, dedicated and most importantly, passionate about learning. The one or two instances I have experienced where staff have raised concerns is when they are worried that a task or new strategy might distract teachers away from the process of engaging students in creative and challenging learning. They are the kind of concerns that, as a leader, you don’t mind hearing and responding to. The staff here like to socialise and there are also plenty of activities outside of work that the teachers like to enjoy – I have recently started hiking and climbing in Seoul with several of my colleagues; it’s a good way to let off steam!

Student engagement at the school is first class; students are often as passionate about their learning as their teachers, although there will always be students who need the learning brought to them through creative and engaging activities. The school council have a real voice and actively contribute to the decision making process in the school, often taking the lead in charity drives and in ensuring a positive experience for newly arrived students.

How much interaction do you have with parents?

The parents also have a strong voice in the school, through the Friends of Dulwich committee, and it is important to recognise that they have chosen a Dulwich school because they expect high standards and are interested in the learning that goes on. This was different to my experience in London where I often had to chase parents up to attend parents’ meetings. On the whole, parents are very supportive, especially if they see that the teacher has the best interests of the children in mind. At one of my previous schools in London we struggled to get more than a handful of parents to attend a curriculum evening but here we get a great rate of parent participation.

How involved are you in extra-curricular activities? Which ones do you do?

The extra-curricular activities form an important part of what makes the school stand out to parents. We offer a range of different experiences after school that the students wouldn’t normally get through the mainstream curriculum. We offer everything from horse riding and photography to chess club. There are also plenty of sports clubs and opportunities to offer new ECAs based on the passion of the particular teacher. Once a club has been established there is also the opportunity to make links with other schools in Korea, as well as with the other Dulwich schools, to arrange competitions and meets to enhance the enjoyment of the students.

Is there an opportunity to introduce your ideas into the school?

Absolutely - this is one of the main positives I have found since joining the group. Ideas from teachers that enhance the learning experience and the enjoyment of the students are actively encouraged. I have found in the two Dulwich schools that I have worked in that the possibility of failure has never been a barrier to exploring new and exciting ideas – sometimes they might not work but if you gain feedback from other staff and are open to advice, very often they do!

How do you find living in Seoul?

The staff here are very proactive in looking for opportunities to explore Korea. In my experience the teachers who are prepared to take on the challenge of living and working abroad tend to be open minded and up for enjoying on new experiences. Outside of work, staff here enjoy a variety of activities including climbing, cycling, hiking, travelling, paragliding, and of course, enjoying a pint or two on a Friday night!