Staff Focus: Matt Uffindall

Written by Roseline Yang, Community Relations Officer

Matt Uffindall comes from rural North Yorkshire in England and I had the pleasure to welcome him at the beginning of August before school started for the students. He came with his girlfriend directly from Qatar where he taught for 5 years in an international school. He was recently appointed as YCIS Pudong’s Athletic Director for next school year, taking over from Lennart van Vlerken who will head to new horizons. I’m really excited to get to know more about Matt and hope you are too, if you haven’t had the opportunity to interact with him!

Let’s meet Matt Uffindall!

Salut Matt, ça va? Tu as passé de bonnes vacances? (Everytime Matt sees me, he greets me in French and then we continue in English but I really like it because it reminds me of the variety of languages spoken by our students at YCIS.)

Oui, oui! Merci (laughs) – I went to Japan to ski!

What do you like to do in your free time?

Sport of course – I play football and rugby here in Shanghai, I am playing for a couple of teams which is great to keep fit but also a great way to meet and socialize with people.

Traveling and discovering new places is my other pastime. I have already been to 47 countries across all 5 continents in the world. I have a special map at home where I scratch every place I have visited. Every country has its specialty and I love to try new and different things. Whenever I go to a new country, I like to learn some basic words and sentences to be able to communicate with the people in that host country. I guess that this is because I used to go to the South of France and Austria to visit my relatives every school holidays.

Oh! That’s how you learnt a bit of French! So, you can also speak German? What were you doing over there?

Just tourist talk, just enough to order food and get directions. What I loved there was to climb mountains during the summer and ski during the winter! I have just been to Japan for Chinese New Year Holidays – in Niseiko. It’s a volcano so there were slopes around the mountains. If you like to ski, Japan is the number one place  to go because you can have up to 12 metres of powder snow. The winds from the Artic create that powdery snow. This is better than Canada, US or France.

So would you say that it was your preferred place for skiing?

No, every place has its charm. I love skiing in France for the beautiful weather (sunshine) and for the food (Hmm…French raclette). What is special about France is that mountains are much higher so before you can go and ski you need to drive up to the mountains for more than 25 minutes for example in  Alberville (near Geneva). What is special about Austria is that the mountains are close to the village. You have wooden log cabins in the landscape and delicious hot chocolate like in Salzburg.

In Europe, you can ski for miles and miles, whereas when I went to Japan recently, you go up and come down through the trees.

I read in your description that you like all types of sport – well I can see ski and surf from your Wechat profile. You mention that you competed at a high level? Which sports?

I played football, cricket and rugby at a good level at Centre of Excellence in the UK, cricket at Lords in London, and rugby at an international level in Qatar.

Ok – let’s move to some questions related to my favorite topic: Education, YCIS spirit and YCIS community.

What is your education background? Why did you choose this career field? Did do you anything before teaching?

I have always wanted to become a teacher, probably because I have a family of teachers: my mom, my aunt, … are all teachers. It is my 14th year of teaching this year. I chose PE because I love sports and I thought that having the possibility to do everything I love every day is kind of great! Being able to see students improve, or take up a new sport is great. It can help them so much throughout the rest of their school life.


I completed my PGCE in Secondary PE from Leeds Metropolitan University and taught in the UK for seven years before I moved to the small state of Qatar in the Middle East, where I taught for 5 years. I am also teaching Geography in IGCSE.

This is why you know so much about wind directions, soil, landscape, etc. Sports and World Traveler specialist: great combination for passion and career! So, why did you choose to come to Shanghai and YCIS?

Actually, I am the one that was chosen! I was approached by a recruiting agency who introduced me to YCIS and after my interview, I was convinced: Nice leadership team, nice school-size with a student-centered approach and most importantly, it sounded like an environment where you can grow and expand. It was also a good time to experience something new.

True! How have you adapted to Shanghai? 你会说中文了吗?

Yi dian dian. I should probably study more but it has been very easy to adapt to Shanghai as this is a cosmopolitan city where you can easily live without speaking much Chinese! Although I try, I have found the language hard to pick up.

What about YCIS? How have you adapted and what do you enjoy at YCIS?

I  think I have adapted quite easily. All very smoothly. The culture and attitudes towards learning, and the breadth of experiences throughout the staff make it a great place to work.

Being a new team with Lennart and Tracy, we were able to be as efficient as we can with what we have and it’s working very well since we have many sport teams playing and practicing during a week.

Not to mention the students who have a great attitude towards learning and our parents that are all very supportive. Sport can play such an important role in everyone’s life so we try to embrace it and make the most of it.

Awesome! Let’s finish with one last question about your position next year and your vision for the Sport programme.

Looking forward, I honestly think that we can build on some excellent work that has already been put in place. We want to continue to grow the brilliant CCA programme that has been established, and then from there also develop the academic courses with IB Sports Science. It’s an exciting time to be involved in sport at YCIS!