Ben Rothwell: Leading by Example and Spreading the Gleam of Knowledge
Ben Rothwell , Head of Innovation & Technology , VHPS | The Knowledge Review

The American author, H Jackson Brown, Jr has rightfully said, “Nothing is more expensive than a missed opportunity”. Alike challenges, opportunities too are a part of life and by knowing how to recognize the latter and hurdle the first, one can lay the groundwork for success. Ben Rothwell, Head of Innovation and Technology at Victory Heights Primary School (VHPS) is one such persona who attributes his success and career growth to this approach.

Earning the title of ‘Most Influential Educators in Dubai’ has not stopped him from enthusiastically working to achieve his goal of a better educational system. His strong sense of responsibility towards the development of the educational sector and dedicated work to ensure that teaching should be based around strong and evidence-informed practice has played a major role in elevating the school’s success. Working along with other faculties, Ben has succeeded at helping VHPS move up considerably in the school assessment ranking and has adopted new ideas that raise attainment and reduce workload.

His collaborative work with other educational leaders from some of the leading schools in Dubai and Abu Dhabi; notably Dubai College, British School of Al Khubairat and Kings School Al Barsha to form the UAE Research Schools Network is one of his attempts towards achieving his goal. Ben realizes that a great responsibility rests on his shoulders and being an educational leader has given him the power to impact the lives of many students both directly and indirectly. Here is the tale of an evolving, confident and gallant educational leader who looks at the challenge in its eye and turns it into an opportunity.

Journey to Prominence

Ben’s journey has taken many turns, transitioning from a teacher to be an influential educational leader. His teaching expedition began with undertaking a GTP (Graduate Teacher Program) qualification in ICT through Canterbury Christ Church University College, which was later known as Canterbury Christ Church University. This program entailed working as a full-time teacher in a secondary modern school in East Kent – Sandwich Technology School. This technology-enabled school enjoys additional funding and therefore has an excellent ICT provision which set Ben on a definite and different path while prospering as a trainee.

Regardless of having zilch experience in working with young children, Ben felt extremely fortunate to secure this role. Though it was Ben’s gusto and passion that had driven him towards the success of this role, he acknowledges the trust, faith, and guidance Karen Peel and Elizabeth Williamson had put in him. During this period, he used to work with students mainly in KS3 and KS4, however, with the sheer guidance of Mark Beaman, Ben also used to teach in Computing and Business & Economics to the KS5 students.

Upon the completion of his training, Ben further moved to another school, namely the Chatham House Grammar School for Boys. Here, Ben’s prior experience in coaching rugby led him to the role, which combined both the teaching of ICT as well as a Games commitment. This school marked yet another milestone in Ben’s life. Though teaching was always his calling, it was in Chatham House Grammar School that Ben realized his undying passion towards this profession. The sense of collegiality at the school, with pupils from a deprived area looking to achieve grades that would enable them to attend university, made Ben’s each and every day at CHGS worthwhile.

And always, there was the magic of learning things”

Betty Smith, Author

Ben Rothwell is one such avid learner, who never turns his back from anything. Given any situation in front of him, Ben thrives while learning as he goes. Remembering his days in CHGS Ben says that his colleagues had influenced him to a great level. However, one such colleague whom Ben had idolized was Phillip Hughes, a PE teacher and in-charge of Year 11 students. Philip’s interaction with other staffs and the relationships that he maintained with others was something that Ben wanted to practice. He then realized that this is how he wants to be perceived around the staff room.  He also expresses his gratitude to Chris Bowman and Clark Goodwin.  Clark, the then Head of PE was an inspirational teacher. Greatly influenced by his teaching strategies, Ben had envisioned himself delivering high-quality lessons. Similarly, he also admired Chris’ teaching techniques and aspired to achieve the same.

Seeing an opportunity in any given situation was one of the most admirable qualities that set Ben apart from others. His never giving up attitude and willingness to learn from any given situation has acted as a catalyst in his journey towards the top. Above all, Ben epitomizes humbleness. It is because of this modesty that Ben Rothwell had achieved the mantle of the ‘Best NQT in East Kent’ during his NQT year at Chatham House. No matter how tech-savvy the world gets, the importance and need of a teacher will never diminish. A teacher beholds the power to awaken one’s own expectations and guides them to achieve even beyond those expectations.  However, for these noble creatures, the only thing that matters is witnessing their students touching the zeniths of success and expecting nothing in return. Ben Rothwell, who follows the trail of this noble profession, has left an imprint in his student’s hearts forever and being nominated for the ‘Best NQT in East Kent’ by his pupils justifies this.

With abundance of love towards learning and learners, and aiming to bring these two together, Ben Rothwell’s expedition of spreading knowledge landed him at Kent College, Canterbury.  With new ventures, came new responsibilities, now appointed as the Head of ICT at Kent, Ben continued to learn and also guide others.  Having transformed from teacher to a leader, Ben worked on improving the provisions of technology in schools. Ben has closely witnessed the importance of using technology in schools and hence, he was very delighted when Adobe asked to produce some curriculum resources for them surrounding the innovative use of Adobe Flash to support some of the curriculum objectives that they studied.

Ben’s journey further took him to the bright shores of Dubai. He believed that this city held great prospect for him. The first step towards this was securing the position as a  class teacher of ICT at Victory Heights Primary School.  Shifting from KS4 and KS5 to be a teacher in primary sector had not only marked a significant change in Ben’s career but also brought him new challenges. Nevertheless, Ben had mastered the art of bracing himself for any situation and therefore as much as scary this evolution was Ben was excited and ready to face it.

Meeting Sasha Crabb, the Founding Principal of Victory Heights Primary School was yet another turning point in Ben’s life. Having forgotten the trepidations of his new role, Ben now focused on learning all the essential knacks. This school gave him an opportunity to work with many other influential people who brought their own magic to school and their attributes have rubbed off on Ben. Paul Dowlman, the inspirational teacher who exudes calm, Laura Dowlman, the Headteacher who is a tour-de-force at ensuring the school runs every day, and Matt Hawley, the Deputy Head who shares a lot of Ben’s visions for education are some of the noticeable people Ben has worked with.

Ben and VHPS- Nurturing Students for Future

Victory Heights Primary School has a simple mission; to Nurture, Challenge, and Excel. It is a small community-focused primary school, which aims to get the best out of all its students. The school has put no limitation to its students, however, the faculties of the school make sure that it nurtures students to his or her highest potential. Here, students are challenged daily to be the best they can be.

Today’s children are tomorrow’s movers and shakers, this belief being central to VHPS; it has been sought for offering the finest education. Propelling this same thought, the school has left no stones unturned to achieve its goal. This student-centric school believes in the two-way learning process and realizes that for students to develop in the right environment it should also focus on nurturing its teachers. Hence, along with ensuring the wellbeing of the students it equally focuses on the wellbeing of teachers and appropriate actions are taken to ensure  smooth functioning.

“Teachers who love teaching, teach children to love learning”, this quote rightfully defines Ben Rothwell.  A teacher who has been dedicatedly working to ensure that education is being delivered in a meaningful way is hard to come by and easy to spot .Ben is one such educator who has taken decisions that would benefit the whole student community.

At present, he envisions to see Victory Heights Primary School finally achieve the ‘Outstanding’ rating that it so richly deserves. He further quotes, “Everything we do is outstanding – in many areas, I believe we are the absolute best in the region. We are not perfect in every way, but we do everything we can, and we do it with an open mind and kind heart.

I want us to continue to develop our research focus, and that research that we will produce in the next few years will lead to us having a significant impact on the education of pupils beyond our setting.”

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