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Jarrod Gaines, Head of the BIS Secondary School

Always Look to the Horizon

The British International School in Belgrade has offered an education that broadens perspectives and encourages and inspires students to do their best for more than 25 years

The focus of BIS is on providing an engaging and inspirational learning environment and curriculum that lead to fully rounded learners who are knowledgeable, confident and creative, and able to access the finest learning institutions worldwide.

This is your second year as head of the BIS Secondary School and your fourth year here in Belgrade. What motivates you to live and work in the Serbian capital?

— First and foremost, I enjoy working with young people, which brings with it huge rewards and, of course, challenges. When I first moved to Belgrade, I didn’t expect to stay here for more than a year. However, I was really struck by the amazing young people we have at BIS and that had the biggest influence on my decision to stay longer.

Our children hail from a number of different countries and have a range of backgrounds, and they offer so much to the school and each other. I will often see students welcoming newcomers to the school; going up to them personally, saying hello and asking interesting questions in order to get to know them. There is a real sense of ‘togetherness’ at the school. Of course, the other crucial factor for me was the people I work with. My colleagues are incredible.

We believe strongly in students moving beyond their comfort zone and adopting a growth mindset

They all put the children front and centre of everything they do and this chimes with the teacher I am. When I considered applying for the Head of Secondary position, I did so already knowing that the staff I would work with are highly professional and dedicated teachers.

What role do extracurricular activities play in BIS and how much importance do you place on this as a school?

— Our focus is on providing an engaging and inspirational learning environment and curriculum that lead to fully rounded learners who are knowledgeable, confident and creative, and able to access the finest learning institutions worldwide. We are fully cognisant of the fact that a rich, robust curriculum only goes part of the way towards preparing our young people for life’s journey. We believe strongly in students moving beyond their comfort zone and adopting a growth mindset. Our extracurricular activities are always evolving, but include facilitating engagement with political discourse through the model UN programme. We run filmmaking and photography clubs, as well as offering competitive sports within the school and beyond. Our educational trips include local institutions as well as field study tours to Iceland.

How do you see the British International School changing over the next few years?

— I think we are like any organisation in so far as we should always look to the horizon. We embrace change and are always looking at what we can do as a school to respond to the challenges of today and prepare for the future. We follow the Cambridge International Programme for Science, Maths and English at key stage 3 (ages 11-14) and for IGCSE and A level (15-18). Cambridge does an excellent job of reflecting on its content and updating it for a changing world. In other areas, we have the scope to develop schemes of work that fit not just with British International Schools, but also within the rich cultural context of Serbia. We recently added three more IGCSEs to our programme of study, which we did in response to student demand. I think we will continue to respond to our students and the fast-changing world around us.

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