Lockdown not only saw millions of people confined to their homes for long periods of time, it also became a time of reflection for many, and Abi Lewis was no different. While working as a Vice Principal at a London Academy in Tottenham, an advert she saw for a job in Portugal piqued her interest. “I saw an advert for the job here and while I had always thought it was a great place to come to retire, the prospect of being able to be a head teacher in Portugal and living in the country was like a dream.
“I have three grown up children and this seemed like a natural time for transition and a time for change” said Abi.
While competition for the post of Head of School was fierce, “they told me they had 200 applicants”, Abi felt ready to embrace the challenge fully, despite her children never truly believing that she would ever leave. “I remember sitting at the kitchen table and told my children on a group call that I was up for the position and they all told me to go for it and to “live your best life”. It turns out they were all gobsmacked when I was given the job!”
Now firmly settled into her position, Abi is bringing in her style of teaching and management to the challenging role at the school.
I have joined the school at a good point it its history; this is a very different school to even five years ago and I feel that being part of Globeducate has put the school in a safe pair of hands - the backing of an international group with more than 55 schools offers great support and creates so many opportunities for our teachers and students,” said Abi.
While the school has recently rebranded as the Nobel Algarve British International School, Abi is very clear that the focus of the school remains international, largely due to the 50 different nationalities that make up the school, located on two campuses in Lagoa and Almancil, Algarve.
“We celebrate diversity here; the school is a fantastic melting pot of cultures and languages, and there are many opportunities to integrate all nationalities both in the school itself and as part of Globeducate and our British International Schools cluster within the group. In the international section here we teach the Cambridge International programme in Primary and Middle School, and this is based on the English national curriculum. It is a very progressive British education.
“What we are focusing on more now – along with five other schools in the group in Spain, Italy and the UK– are some of the popular traditions of a British-style education. In practice, that looks like an active House system, regular assemblies, school sports teams, a focus on outdoor learning and personal challenge, and STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Maths) curriculum. Through the House system we can also bring together the national and international sections of the school. Each “House” has children from pre-school age all the way up to 18 year olds and this helps with integration and also with the transitions through the school years, making it seamless. Whatever age the children are, whichever section or campus they are attending, Lagoa or Almancil, there will be common themes that are integral to everything that happens in our children´s learning experiences at this school,” Abi explains.
“Working together is very important to us and I want to always share the message of togetherness, family and support in the school, with the students, staff and families.”
Giving children a voice is also very important to Abi, who wants all students to be able to have a say in the school, to build skills and to give them the confidence to stand up for what they believe.
“What is most important to me is to create a safe and happy school, where children can be heard, while instilling an ethos of togetherness and equality and also having a sharper focus on teaching and learning,” said Abi. “Every teacher works with the best practices so that children have choices with their qualifications. We are very proud of where students move on to in the future.”
So since moving to Portugal in January and taking on the role in June, how have the dreams lived up to the reality for the new Head of School? “Parents have been hugely supportive and the staff have been very kind and welcoming but nothing beats the students”, said Abi, “I feel like I have won the lottery”.