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Bangkok Faces: Kate Umpleby, Head of Early Years Phase, Harrow International School Bangkok

Your Name: Kate Umpleby

Job Title: Head of Early Years Phase, Harrow International School Bangkok

What is your nationality and background?

I am British but I was born in Hong Kong as my parents were working there at the time. I was in international schools, in Hong Kong and then Indonesia, and moved to the UK when I was 13. I lived there until moving to Harrow Bangkok in 2015.

What is your profession?

I am Head of Early Years Phase.

What are the key skills and responsibilities of this role?

I am responsible for the day-to-day leadership of the Early Years Centre. I am the face of early years, meeting parents, managing teachers and teaching assistants and supporting them daily. I work to ensure learning environments are excellent and teaching is exemplary. I track and monitor the progress of all early years students to make sure they all meet their potential.

How did you get involved in your profession?

My mum’s a teacher so maybe it’s in my blood but when I was in the sixth form I had a placement in a special needs school and that was my first actual taste of teaching. I really enjoyed that experience. I studied psychology at Warwick University, followed by a Post Graduate Certificate in Education and then taught at two primary schools in the UK. I’m now starting my fourth year at Harrow Bangkok and have been teaching for 15 years.

How does your role enhance the wellbeing or experience of children?

In my role, I must make sure that learning environments are safe, fun and purposeful; in early years, the environment is key. I’m responsible for child protection in early years. And I want to make sure that children know they’re looked after, they’re safe and secure, and they’re happy.

What challenges do your face in this role?

Making sure that I’m always trying to keep one step ahead. Sometimes a crystal ball would be great! There are around 300 students in early years in 19 classes, and I need to sustain the best possible educational experience for these young learners, ensuring that they’re meeting their potential and are engaged, excited and happy students.

What do you hope to achieve within your industry?

I want to provide a solid foundation for students for their future educational journey. Confident, happy, secure, safe children are my aim. I also think it’s crucial to develop social and environmental awareness from as early an age as possible. These are future leaders so catching them early is essential.

Who or what inspires you?

I’m reading a book by Paul Dix at the moment called, ‘When the Adults Change, Everything Changes’, which is very inspirational. The crux of the book is how important the behaviour of adults is upon the behaviour of children. Adults have to be supreme role models. And in England, I attended workshops by Ros Wilson (education consultant and creator of Big Writing/Power Writing) who influenced me a lot. Her message was how important it is to get students to speak accurately if you want accurate writing. Speaking is so, so important.

Only a Bangkok local would know… that you can get absolutely anything you want in Bangkok – ingredients for recipes, resources for school etc. etc. – you just need to know where to look!

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