Q&A with Kate Ryan

(Posted on 19/12/16)

As Chester International School prepares to open its doors in September 2017, Kate Ryan discusses why she is delighted to return to Chester and explains the vision and ethos behind this innovative approach to learning.

Tell us what drew you to this new school

I trained as a teacher in Chester and since then, I have be fortunate enough to lead and build schools around the world. Most recently, I was in New York as Director of Academic Enhancement where I designed curriculum and assisted educational systems globally to improve and provide a quality education for all students.

To have the opportunity to return home and lead a forward-looking, innovative, internationally minded school is a wonderful and rewarding experience and I am delighted to build on my start-up experience to create a new type of learning experience for students in Chester. To combine this with my own learning in Chester with my doctoral studies in Education is a personal challenge which I am enjoying enormously.

What’s the educational philosophy at Chester International School?

We believe that a quality education is one that allows for a personalised path for our students aged 14-19, that results in academic progress, and as importantly, progress in other areas and skills. If you look ahead to the future when students in school today are going to be adults, the skills and qualities that they will need are resilience, grit, perseverance, the ability to direct themselves and the ability to seek out problems and develop questions and not just solve them. Essentially, all students need to be equipped with the 21st century skills of communication, critical thinking, collaboration and creativity. We want to be a school which keeps pace with the changes in the world so our students are prepared for the future.

What’s the difference compared to a typical school?

Firstly, it’s that the education is personalised. We are building a culture which is using technology so students can design their own experience. It is equally about their non-academic learning and their character and skills developed through their enrichment electives, giving them a well-rounded foundation to prepare them for a competitive world. Also, our students are part of a global network. They will develop working relationships with students and business mentors in Chester and overseas. Our students will collaborate on projects working with students in different time zones, cultures and languages all of which will prepare them for the reality of a new world of work.

Where did the name Chester International School come from?

Staying within the Christleton family is important because in the Christleton Learning Trust, we all share the same core values. Although a separate entity, Chester International School will share a similar approach to the well-being of our students and to high expectations of quality of education. Our priorities are to provide the same academic standards and Outstanding provision as Christleton High School but we will work as independent entities. Preparing students to be global and international citizens has become a mantra of many schools and we are approaching it in an authentic and thoughtful way. This Studio is a way to help young people start on their educational journeys and develop the skills to be outward looking and to study and work with communities that reflect Chester, the UK and the world.

As a Studio, our school will always be small with a maximum of 320 students when full. We are opening with only 60 places in Year 10 and 60 places in Year 12. This small size allows us flexibility and an individual approach for our students.

What is daily life like for your students?

Our students will begin the week with planning time to sign up for their self-scheduled lessons. These are lessons which allow students to receive additional support, challenge and extension or time with the subject expert for their projects. In their timetabled blocks, students will have a lecture, tutorial and group session in each subject per week. Lectures are recorded so students can access for revision and future reference. If our students are well organised, they will be able to complete all study during the extended school day ensuring they have a healthy school-life balance and avoid undue stress during these important years. Another key feature is that during the school day, students will choose three electives each term in the areas of Health and Well-being, Creativity and Community and Skills. These include Duke of Edinburgh, driving theory, photography, Japanese, robotics, coding, journalism, music, team sports, dance and individual fitness pursuits. In addition to academic studies, all students will carry out regular work placements. Luckily students have weekly sessions with their coaches, their teachers and professional mentors and experts to help guide them and support them through their busy week.

What will be the role of technology at the Studio?

We are seeking to find ways to improve the day-to-day learning experience for students and extending the reach of our excellent teachers by virtue of new technology. The data can show which learning experiences are more effective and this can change how we engage our students at a deeper and individual level. Our use of technology will not replace our high expectations of teaching, the professional partnerships between teachers and students or the care and support our school will offer each student.

Why did CIS choose the IB Dipoma and Career Programme rather than A Levels?

In a post-Brexit landscape, it will be even more necessary for tomorrow’s leaders to be able to engage with the whole global economy and the IB prepares students well for the fast-changing world around us. Also, unlike A-Levels which are linear and exam-based, most IB subjects are modular, with coursework, oral presentations, practicals and group work accounting for lots of the available marks. The best universities increasingly recognise the well-rounded, independent qualities of typical IB students. There is always a combination that will personalise the IB for our students while keeping the breadth to give students the competitive edge for future employers. We believe the IB Diploma and Career Programme are the best options for bright, ambitious young people today.

What will Chester International School look like and where will it be?

We know that a school building does not make a school community but we are fortunate that we will have facilities which will be attractive to students, families and our teachers. It will enable our students to learn in a high quality environment which blends aspects of schools like classrooms, university style lecture spaces and co-working hubs reflective of leading global business groups. We will be based in Handbridge which will allow students easy access to Chester’s business and academic institutions, transport and cultural activities.

With only 60 places in each year group, how can students and families find out more and apply?

Students and families can apply online directly and all information regarding the application process can be found on our website, www.christletoninternationalstudio.co.uk We invite students and families to come and find out more and we have meetings available during the day, after-school and Saturday morning coffees with our team. With fast approaching deadlines, we encourage any families interested to apply quickly so they are able to join our dynamic community in September 2017.