"Schools will support opportunities for blended learning," says Matthew Farthing

Schools like Nord Anglia International Schoolhg0088手机版登录 have strived through the distance learning period, allowing their students to shine through even the most challenging times. Our exclusive interview with Principal Matthew Farthing highlights how NAS Dubai tackled the distance learning period and whether blended learning will become the new norm.

How has NAS Dubai responded to Covid-19 and what do you envision for the coming academic year?

We reacted with speed, taking the best advantage of the two week holiday period just before the new term opened and drew on the experience of our other schools in South East Asia and China that had been leading virtual schooling for quite some time before closure came to the Middle East. As such, we had a good sense of what was working well and of the development pattern that unfolded in our other schools, especially with regards to students and staff well being as well as how best to balance synchronous and asynchronous learning.

What were some of the highs and lows of distance learning during this period?

hg0088手机版登录Highs and lows – well the highs are the same as they always are, witnessing the wonder and magic of learning and of student achievement. The lows have been talking with families whose businesses and professional livelihoods have been most severely impacted by Covid-19, and worrying for colleagues who were feeling most isolated and alone during the lockdown; worrying that we might not always have the structures of care we need to have in place to ensure wellbeing for all so far as we can.

Should schools implement new curriculums based around distance learning for the future?

I think that we all need to consider a future where there will be a continuation of blended learning, either resulting from outbreaks of the virus in our schools that lead to school closures and as an opportunity for enriching the curriculum delivery, especially for some of our older students.

Do you think that blended learning will become the new norm? How does it bring out the best in teachers and students?

No, I don’t think that there is any comprehensive and realistic alternative to the models of traditional schooling and the sense of community belonging that provide results, but I do think that the top schools will support opportunities for blended learning specific to the needs of individual students and classes. As we mature in our thinking, this may also extend to developing new links with providers who are remote to a specific school but again, I think that this is more pertinent to the older students in the school who may be negotiating new learning pathways with their personal tutor or even at the point of admissions.

How is NAS Dubai preparing to welcome back students in September?

Well this is the big question that we are all asking and at this point in time I don’t think anyone has the answer – suffice it to say we are running quite a complex scenario planning specifics to each particular phase of the school while we wait for the direction from the authorities. Again, being part of the Nord Anglia Group I think we are fortunate to know what is working in some of our other schools who are and who have reopened.

About the Speaker

hg0088手机版登录With over 30 years of experience as a school leader and teacher, the latter being in the international arena, Matthew joined Nord Anglia Education at the British International School Bratislava in 2013 before moving to NAS Dubai in August 2016.

hg0088手机版登录Matthew firmly believes in the importance of a rounded approach to education and developed the school enrichment programme with a strong focus on co-curricular activities, expeditions, international–mindedness and leadership.

He took his first degree in English studying at Oriel College Oxford followed by an MA in Language and Education at Leeds and a PGCE at The University of East Anglia. He holds the National Professional Qualification for Headship and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts. Happily married with three grown-up children, Matthew thoroughly enjoys his Principalship at NAS Dubai.

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