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News > Catch up : Concord Staff > An exciting move for Dr Outram

An exciting move for Dr Outram

Dr Outram is about to embark on a new adventure as Founding Head of Secondary School at Concord College International School in Malaysia.
18 Jun 2024
United Kingdom | Malaysia
Catch up : Concord Staff
Dr Outram, Mr Hawkins and Mr Lees at the new school in KL
Dr Outram, Mr Hawkins and Mr Lees at the new school in KL

Dr Outram has been at the College for 16 years is about to embark on a new Concord adventure, leaving our UK home for the new Concord International school in Malaysia. We recently caught up with him during his very busy schedule to reminisce about his 16 years here in Acton Burnell and the plans for the new Concord College International School in Kuala Lumpur.

 

Q) Have you always been a teacher, what did you do before coming to Concord College?

After I completed my PhD in Astrophysics at the Institute of Astronomy in Cambridge, I moved to Durham as a Postdoctoral Research Fellow. My first teaching job was at Rugby School, I was there for 3 years before joining Concord.

 

Q) What brought you to Concord College?

The College just 'screams' maths! If you love maths, and love teaching maths, then you want to be here. The more I read about the place, the more I wanted to be here and when I saw the idyllic campus I was hooked. When Mr Hawkins, Mr Lawrence and Mr Chadwick interviewed me, I knew I would fit in.

We have 20 (or so) maths teachers now and around 85% of Sixth Form students here take A Level maths, and about half of them study double maths which is far more than most schools. I've taught some fantastic students - from the naturally gifted mathematicians to those who have made fantastic progress. It does make it rather hard to leave!

 

Q) You started as a Maths teacher and are now Assistant Principal (Enrichment and Examinations?. It sounds like you have a very busy job!

After I'd been here for a year, I started helping Tom Lawrence sorting out Prep and Saturday tests. When Alf Ellis left, I became Exams Officer and joined the Senior Management Team in 2012.

Part of my role is to organise prep, Saturday tests and external exams. In my annual exam assembly I train students how to prepare for them. We have to remind everyone that they can only bring in permitted items and I have a 'pencil case' to show them that we know where things can be hidden and that even tiny notes will get caught. I have a fake phone which I throw across the room to remind them not to accidentally forget to take their phones out of their pockets before coming into an exam, it aways makes an impression!

I also look after the Enrichment side of student life and this job has grown a lot over the last 12 years. I have overall responsibility for clubs and societies, music, sports (lots of students will have seen me making announcements on Sports Day) as well as trips. 

 

Q) Tell us about some of the student trips you've joined.

I've been to Costa Rica, Madagascar, Bolivia, Iceland, Kenya (twice), Germany, Granada and France. I've enjoyed them all, but the adventure trips were perhaps the most memorable. In Bolivia, for example, we helped build greenhouses for a city, which had an altitude of 4000m and poor soil, so the residents could grow more crops. All these events lead to a wonderful sense of community as well as lots of fun.

Another stand-out memory is travelling to Baltimore to take a student, Olivia Guo, to the World Final of the 'Who Wants to be a Mathematician' championship.  

As well as student trips I've also travelled abroad for alumni reunions, marketing events and education fairs. In 2019, just before the pandemic, I had the opportunity to go to Ukraine and Russia. I've also travelled to Nigeria with Tom Lawrence where we had an armed guard to escort us.

 

Q) So, after 16 happy years at Concord in Acton Burnell you and your family are about to move to Kuala Lumpur where you'll be the Founding Head of Secondary School at Concord College Malaysia.  What inspired you to make the change?

First of all, it's a great opportunity to work again with Neil Hawkins, our former Principal at Acton Burnell and now Principal of Concord College International. He will be the Executive Principal at the Malaysia school too and will visit regularly. 

Malaysia is a beautiful country with friendly people and a vibrant cultural mix. There are jungles, mountains, beautiful beaches and you're surrounded by all the other fantastic countries in South-East Asia. 

My wife, Nikki, also works at Concord as a maths teacher. She's had a number of roles here and is now part of our Outreach team supporting children in local primary schools. She will be Head of Boarding at the new school and is looking forward to getting started.

 

Q) What are the biggest challenges in starting a new school?

It's so important to get the right staff in place. We have a fantastic team, and we are all new, so we'll be starting from scratch together. Of course you have to get all the equipment in place too, from beds and kitchen equipment to desks and test tubes. We have a talented procurement manager who is working hard to ensure we are all ready for the start of term. 

 

Q) What are the main differences between Concord College and Concord College International in Malaysia?

There is the same academic rigour and culture of kindness and creativity at both schools but the first thing you'd notice is the weather. In KL it is hot!

The students in the Malaysian school start in Year 1 which is a lot younger than in the UK, and until they get to Sixth Form, all of them must wear a uniform.  It's important to welcome students from different countries at both schools, but currently in KL all of the students are from countries in South East Asia. Being younger, many of them will not yet have had chance to learn much English yet and we will therefore help them with this. As in the UK, all their lessons will be in English, and they'll be taking iGCSEs and iA Levels. 

In KL boarders will start from Year 7 and we have a purpose built seven storey accommodation block, big enough for one floor for each year group, not dotted around campus as in the UK.

Malaysia recognises lots of cultural differences and there are more national holidays than in the UK. With a higher proportion of Muslim students in KL, we are making sure all the food is suitable for all. 

 

Q) Apart from work, what are you hoping to do while living in a new country?

There will be a chance for us to explore the country in the holidays, and although we plan to come back to the UK for a visit every year, I hope we will be able to make the most of being in Malaysia as a family and visit all its famous and not so well-known places. 

 

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