David Cole joined our school in September this year. Here is our exclusive (!) interview…
1. Tell us a bit about yourself, your background
I began my career as a teacher in 1994, in Coláiste Chríost Rí, a secondary school for boys, founded by the Presentation Brothers in Cork Ireland. I was a Geography teacher mostly, but have also taught History and other subjects at various times. In 2002 I was seconded to the European School Brussels I, where I taught Geography and Human Science for 9 years. In 2011 I returned to Ireland, to my original school, but the opportunity to return to Brussels soon came up, and well, here I am! I have been lucky as, though very different establishments, both schools were amazing places to work in, and I enjoyed my time in each very much.
I’m married, and have two sports-mad-boys, both of whom were born in Belgium and attend the European School. My wife is a teacher in Brussels I. I try to keep fit mostly through hillwalking and football, and I have played an old battered piano for more years than I care to remember.
2. What are, in your opinion, the major challenges/problems/ areas for improvement in our Secondary?
Well it is stating the obvious, but the biggest challenge is that we are a new and rapidly expanding school. In the secondary alone we had to integrate over three hundred new students, twenty-nine new teachers and a new deputy director since September. No other European School faced such an adventure! If you consider the whole school, the numbers are even more impressive! Next year we have to accommodate the subject choices of our new 6th years, and just a year later, get these 96 students ready for the school’s first BAC…while still integrating even more new students and teachers at the same rate of growth!
Meanwhile, recruitment will remain a challenge, as it is in the other schools. However, since the member states have begun seconding fewer teachers, our school will continue to face particular difficulties in this regard. It will always be a challenge to source and retain qualified, experienced teachers for various language sections in Brussels.
The growing student body needs more facilities. We need to provide more sports areas, equip more laboratories and classrooms, and develop the playground, and the cafeteria…to mention but a few priority areas!
3. What do you envisage doing to resolve the shortage of teachers?
We will take this challenge on a many levels. We will continue to push member states and the Inspectorate to second more staff. Our local recruitment policy has proven very successful and we are building up a fantastic team who work tirelessly for the school – so clearly this will continue. We need to retain the experienced teachers who have developed the school thus far. I will work hard to make working in EEB4 an even more enjoyable and rewarding experience so that they stay with us. Team-building and development will always be a focus. We will also look further afield and continue to advertise abroad to cast our net as widely as possible. Last year Mr Schlabe managed to bring in several teachers who had previous careers as seconded teachers in other European Schools, which brought in a wealth of experience.
4. Parents are very much interested in having Career Orientation activities for the Secondary students. We are ready to help. Do you plan any such initiatives?
It is great to hear that parents are willing to help with Career Orientation Activities. Yes, indeed I am open to developing initiatives in this area. Our careers advisors have already taken the students to careers expositions this year, and also formed links with Lycee Jean Monnet to share best practice, and to cooperate in organising Orientation evenings. The 5th years will have work experience opportunities later this year, and I and the careers advisors have already laid out a plan for the year to ensure that students are best prepared and get the most out of their work placements. I will plan orientation activities with them over the coming weeks and I am sure they will be delighted to hear that parents are keen to help!
5. How would you like to see the parents more involved to help making Secondary school experience better for the children at EEB4?
I have already been hugely impressed with the level of parental involvement at EEB4, and I have only been here a short time! There are so many ways the school can benefit from a close involvement with the parent body! My door is always open to looking into new or improved initiatives to help making the secondary school experience better for EEB4 students. Only today (Friday 28th) for example, I had the wonderful experience of looking around the site and trying to imagine how we might spend the huge Somerfesto donation from 2013 (offered at last night’s Education Council) on playground facilities for the secondary students. What an opportunity! There is great experience out there among parents, and I hope to tap into that experience to help with Career Orientation as mentioned above. Many more opportunities will occur, and the school year is still young – I have still to experience many initiatives that parents have been helping with for years.
6. Is there anything I didn’t ask that you’d like the school community to know?
I have had an amazing team helping me over the last few months, representing ALL of the stakeholders involved at the school. I very much appreciate the warm welcome, the support, and the spirit of co-operation which has helped to ease me in and indeed to train me in! After only a few short weeks, I can tell that EEB4 is going to be another amazing experience.