Q&A with Andy Gaskins, the new Principal at St Giles London Highgate
Whether you are a student, a teacher, or a member of staff, St Giles will allow you to grow and develop throughout your studies or career. In this Q & A, please meet Andy Gaskins. Andy has been with St Giles since 2006 and was recently appointed as the new Principal at St Giles London Highgate!
We sat down with Andy earlier in the year to get to know him a bit better. Learn more about Andy’s journey from teacher to Principal below.
Hi Andy! Welcome to St Giles London Highgate. How have your first few months been?
I’ve been in post for a few months now and it has been both fascinating and rather breathless! Moving to Highgate for the New Year was good timing as it meant a fresh start with lots of new projects to look at. Also, I arrived just in time to welcome lots of students from Argentina and Brazil who are spending their summer holidays bundled up in warm clothes building snowmen in our garden! I have been on the road too. First in Cambridge for our annual management conference and also visiting our other UK schools for training. Lots of fun and lots of new things to learn and try out!
You have worked at St Giles for a while, can you tell us about your previous role(s) here?
I joined St Giles back in 2006 as a teacher at London Central. I had been teaching English for a few years at schools in Australia and the UK, but quickly realised that St Giles was rather different with much more emphasis on staff development and a keen focus on our learner-centred, communicative approach. St Giles supported me through my MA TESOL at the Institute of Education and after I graduated I became a Senior Teacher, with responsibility for supporting the teaching team through observations and training. In 2013 I was appointed Assistant Director of Studies, moving into a full-time management role, and then in April 2017, mid-way through taking my Diploma in ELT management, I came to Highgate as the Director of Studies, covering Sally whilst she was on maternity leave. When Sally returned to work in June 2018 I moved back to London Central as ADOS until Mark Rendell’s departure led to some changes, leaving a vacancy for Principal back at Highgate, a position to which I am thrilled to have been appointed.
How does it feel to work at our other London school?
It’s great to be back at Highgate, though I will miss friends and colleagues back at London Central. One of the great strengths of St Giles is the way that we are able to work together, sharing ideas and expertise between the schools. Moving back to Highgate gives me an opportunity to learn from the team here; as a smaller school it is easier to get to know the students and that closeness is something that I truly value. However, there is also an opportunity to bring strengths from Central over to Highgate. For example, I am working with Sally to integrate Action Research into our CPD programme, something that has been inspirational to teachers at Central and promises to be even more productive with our super-experienced team here at Highgate!
What are you most looking forward to about working at London Highgate?
It’s great to be re-acquainted with the team here and I can’t wait for spring to bring our beautiful garden back to life! There is lots going on in the school at the moment; we have three teachers enrolled on the DELTA, we are upgrading two rooms with new IWBs and are looking into ways that technology and project work could be used to improve our Junior Courses.
What is your favourite thing about London?
I think it has to be the variety. London is blessed with lots of green space as well as a wealth of culture and nightlife; I live a two minute walk from Epping Forrest and a ten minute walk from the bustling centre of Walthamstow in Waltham Forest which is this year’s London Borough of Culture. I love cooking and London with its diversity of culture has a great choice of food. You can try food from every corner of the globe and you can also source ingredients to prepare pretty much anything you like!
What advice do you have for students going to study in London?
London has so much to offer that you won’t find in the average guidebook. The different areas of London have very different characters; from the laid back cool of Hackney and Shoreditch to the cultured sophistication of Hampstead, the more you get out and explore the more you will discover. Nothing beats the knowledge of locals, so talk to your teachers and homestay hosts to find out where they would recommend, or better still, try our Secret Cities course.
Thank you for your time, Andy! Good luck in the new post!