We had the pleasure of asking Mark Fletcher-Single, EF Academy Oxford’s Head of School, five questions about his journey within education and about the community at our Oxford campus. Read on to learn more about his educational background, what he loves about his job and what event he is particularly looking forward to this year.
What motivated you to pursue a career in education?
What a great question! So, from a young age, I went to boarding school myself, and absolutely loved every minute of it (well, almost every minute). From school, I went directly to university to study design and engineering: growing up, I loved making things and dismantling broken engines to repair them or see how I could get more power from them. In my final year at university, I knew I wanted to further my studies in Product Design; specifically, design semantics and user-interface ergonomics, but also wanted to do it with more money in my bank account than I had at the time. So I decided I would have a two year break (currently a twenty four year break) from studying and try teaching for a couple of years, at the time, just to save enough to go back to university for another three years.
The flaw in that plan, which I hadn’t considered when I started teaching, was that I didn’t realize how much I’d love it: a passion and pleasure that has never wavered or feigned for the last twenty-four years. Indeed, I enjoyed “school-life” so much, I grabbed the opportunity to be involved in the residential life of the school, too. I started as a resident tutor and was quickly promoted to a Deputy Housemaster and then Housemaster: I loved the boarding life – what used to be referred to as a 24-hour curriculum – and supporting the young people in my care outside of lessons, really helped and developed my teaching in the classroom. Being part of young people succeeding, particularly those who have tried, failed, tried again, failed, tried again, and then achieved their goals, brings an indescribable reward to any teacher. It’s true to say, a sense that can’t be explained, but it’s quite addictive, and gives you a tremendous energy and focus for the following academic year, and then the next one, and the one after that, and so on.
When I’d saved enough money to go back to university – my original plan – I couldn’t, I didn’t want to, and still don’t! I’m still having too much fun. Perhaps, I’ll make it my retirement plan?
What has been a highlight for you working in education?
Easy question: becoming Head of School at EF Academy Oxford. Our school encapsulates everything I wrote that I loved in my first teaching post, but this time, I get to make the biggest difference, I can, as the Head. To be clear, I work with all my colleagues – the EF Academy global team – to make that difference: it’s one of our greatest strengths. As a team (it’s not just one Head in one school), we inspire young people to challenge themselves; we work to collide our students with as many different opportunities as possible; to, occasionally, be there when they fail, for e.g., achieving a CAS target, and celebrate, together, when they use that failure to learn to succeed; and generally, just be there when we’re needed. Like a parent of any young adult, it’s an experience of mixed emotions when you realize “we’ve done it!: they’re ready”, but now don’t need you as much as they used to, or still you want, because you miss being needed (despite spending years looking forward to that moment, or is that just me?).
What is your favorite part of your job and why?
The child in me wants to write when I introduce myself: I still smile (beaming inside), seven months on, when I say “…my name is Mark Fletcher-Single, I’m the Head of School at EF Academy Oxford…”. But I think, the best bit of my job is being part of every element that contributes towards students’ achievements at the end of their course. Literally, from attending meetings to develop schemes of work before the academic year begins; discussions to introduce support mechanisms for students performing under their target grades; budget meetings to expand our weekend activity and trip options; design meetings to respond to students’ feedback on how we can improve the student social spaces; and so on. I’m not a control freak (genuinely, I’m not), but to be able to have a real, and massively positive impact on our students’ experiences is, I think, really quite unique to the role.
How would you describe the campus environment/community at EF Academy Oxford?
In a word, “unique”, “very special”, “genuinely supportive”, “student lead, and student focused”, “positively challenging”, “compassionate”, “together”, “creative”, “us: EF Academy Oxford”…okay, that’s more than one word, but ALL are true, and any other similar adjectives you can think of, in the same vein, are true too. Our environment/community is one that you can’t really describe: it’s far more a feeling. All boarding schools, basically, are made up of classrooms, residence rooms, social areas, etc., however, the feel (or heart) of a school, can only ever really be experienced by visiting it, spending time with the students and staff that live and work within it: what happens in the classrooms, how well the young people are looked after in their residence rooms, the activities available in the social areas, etc., these are the key factors that make a school’s [our] spirit. This is always an interesting question, one many prospective parents ask and, to be honest, one I could say or write anything to answer, but I’ve never known, genuinely and honestly, any visitor leave EF Academy Oxford not commenting on their joy of their experience. Why not visit us yourself, to see?
What’s next for EF Academy Oxford? Are there any upcoming plans or events you’re especially excited for this year?
Upcoming events: 100%, the one I’m most excited about, is our graduation ceremony in April. Of course, we haven’t been able to hold a live event for the last two years, but this year’s ceremony, I know, is going to be one of great celebration and, I hope, one we can celebrate our recent previous students’ tremendous successes too. It’ll be my first as Head of School at EF Academy Oxford, so my excitement for Friday 22 April 2022 is beyond words.