Staff Focus: Andy Clapperton, YCIS Pudong Head of Learning

Written by: Roseline Yang, Community Liaison Officer

Andy Clapperton joined YCIS Pudong last August in the role of Head of Learning, a new position that seemed to have been designed for just this kind of person; able to settle quickly within our organization, bringing new ideas and enthusiasm. Right from the beginning, he organized a social event for staff to discover Shanghai’s French Concession on an “Amazing Race”. More recently, you might have seen him on stage at the Pudong 21 event.

Andy, I really like how you facilitated the discussion with the student panel at Pudong 21. It seemed like it was very natural for both you and the students to be on stage answering questions in front of a large audience.
Thank you! To be honest, the natural thing is to be nervous on stage being watched by so many people, and in particular an audience that is extremely invested in what you are saying. I suppose what makes it feel natural is practice, and at school our students get a great number of opportunities to give presentations, explaining and justifying their points of view, and also receiving feedback so they can improve. Articulating their perspectives in a thoughtful way is key to success in the IB Diploma, and it was wonderful to be able to work with students in Year 6 who are already building confidently towards this.

I know that you are the Head of Learning in the Secondary School. Can you tell me a bit more what your role consists of, since it is a completely new position?
A key part of the role is working with the Heads of Department in Secondary to oversee the curriculum, but I believe the job title ‘Head of Learning’ – as opposed to ‘Curriculum Coordinator’ – was deliberately chosen in order to broaden the focus. Learning isn’t about an end result, a test score. Learning is a journey of self-improvement through reflection and action. I am very keen for students, parents and teachers to keep the dialogue around this as a process, because if you get the reflection and the follow-up right, then the test score will sort itself out. You have to put the horse before the cart, if you like. So, the Head of Learning role is academic, but importantly it is also strategic.

That is why you are part of the team for the three-year strategic plan, right?
Yes, I am excited about Pudong 21. I think that it is an ambitious plan and it is fun to be part of. I am involved in a few of the different task forces, and I’m particularly enjoying the work we have been doing on developing Learning Communities. We are in the process of defining what learning means to us as a school and continuing to find effective ways to bring this to life. This has meant working with a whole range of people, and of course, learning a great deal myself!

Wow – a lot to take on! But I understand that this rhythm of work is not unknown to you from your background. Can you share a little bit about where you come from?
Yes, I suppose it’s fair to say I have always been keen to get stuck in! I have been in Shanghai for over 9 years now in various roles: Head of Department, Head of Years for IB, CAS Coordinator, and also running the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, of which I am a huge fan. I first arrived in China working in Beijing from 2003 to 2005, and I have taught different languages since then, though mainly Spanish. I did surprise a few students the other week when I helped out in a Chinese lesson!

I see you are like Janelle or Dora with multilingual skills! Where are you from and how did you learn these languages?
Actually, I grew up near Liverpool in the UK, but I always wanted to see more of the world. I took a gap year volunteering in Cuba when I was 18, and I chose to study Portuguese at university so I could go and spend time in Brazil, which was a wonderful experience. And if I’m honest, I started learning Chinese simply because I wanted to be capable of ordering all the amazing food that surrounded me when I moved to Beijing.

What do you think about YCIS? What brought you to our school? What do you like the most?
Professionally, I decided to move to YCIS for the great opportunity of this new position – I love taking on new challenges in life, and the prospect of being able to define the role was very exciting to me. In the interview process it was very apparent that the school is a supportive and close-knit community, both in the classroom and on a wider level. I had heard this from friends as well, and it has certainly not disappointed!

Ok, one last question: what do you like to do in your free time?
Travel and cycle. Preferably both at the same time!  When I was in China the first time I stumbled across a passion for biking when I was exploring southern Yunnan, and got this crazy idea into my head that I could cycle home to the UK when my contract in Beijing ran out. So that is exactly what I did, and I have been riding all over the world ever since. I love being in the outdoors, I love the diversity of cultures, and I love the fact that you get to see places at a relatively slow pace because you see so much more.

Ah, cycling – that makes sense now, as you led the biking activity during our Wellbeing Staff Retreat before Christmas. I know you have a website documenting your cycles – now I’m eager to read more! Check it out here: