LYIS Visits Dulwich College Singapore


Last week, I had the honour of visiting Dulwich College, Singapore to meet the School’s Founding Head of College, Nick Magnus. The longevity of his role is a testament to the meticulous detail that went into the College’s planning and preparation before opening.

Communication – The Secret Ingredient of Longevity

Nick has been at the College for nearly twelve years. A phenomenal statistic when you consider the average tenure of the international school principal and that he has been there from day one. Underpinning his entire leadership approach was a desire and commitment to take parents on the journey to opening with the school. Nick set up parent liaison groups, and curriculum information sessions and ingrained parents in the Dulwich College culture before the school had even opened its first door. By the time the school did eventually open, the parent body was so well informed and had been communicated to with such professionalism, that most of the questions about how the school would operate had already been answered.

Ambition with Fidelity

As I walked around the school, on a tour with the school’s exceptional Director of Admissions and Marketing, Piers Matthews, I saw the sheer ambition of the campus and the desire to go where very few schools have gone. The school’s theatre hosts one of only ten organs of its kind in the whole of Singapore – two in any school. The sense of space is incredible. Dining facilities are world-class. As we make our way pitchside an F-35 Fighter Jet appears overhead, in an almost apparent ‘fly-by’ salute to me and all the school has to offer. Parents sit and watch the children take part in PE lessons and often come to physically work at the school. The parental barrier doesn’t seem to exist; instead a community feel, which I have rarely seen this deep before. This is a school whose ambition is met with fidelity when it comes to its founding principles. It leverages every year in its 400-year history to provide an experience like no other.

The school’s facilities are truly outstanding and represent an incredible combination of architectural brilliance, through beautiful design, use of space and a commitment to sustainability – as evidenced by the ‘Greenhouse’, Singapore’s first complete net-zero building. Students can physically see how much energy the campus is using. There is even a jumping game that allows students to generate electricity.

Visionary Leadership

I’d describe Nick as a ‘visionary’, someone who is prepared to push the boundaries of excellence and redefine how a school can get there. In this role, you have to be. We both agree that his leadership is based on pragmatic principles. A great underlying strength of his is in trying to identify certain problems before they arise. “I am a people person”, Nick tells me” as we talk about his leadership of the change management module he facilitates in the Dulwich College internal leadership training and development programme. I get the feeling that he cannot wait for the next session to begin. Unlike some schools, there is very little to separate the academic and pastoral sides of the school. The two work hand in hand. Great academics are the bedrock of effective pastoral care, and a highly nuanced approach to pastoral care, means students leave the College academically in outstanding shape.

Looking Back to Look Forward

Finally, notes Nick, that he has continued to shape and define his leadership over the years, readily admitting that the more he thought he knew, the more he realised he still needed to learn. An insatiable appetite to be the best learner he can be, adding “I love learning from people”. He has the humility to recognise that looking back on his career, he is the first to admit he doesn’t lead now in the way he once thought you should. Nick is supported by a great team of professionals and places significant trust in them. He is quick to sing their praises.

For me, it was an honour to learn from Nick. Leading Your International School extends its warm appreciation to Dulwich College, the school’s Founding Head of College Nick Magnus and Director of Marketing and Admissions, Piers Matthews.

To visit the school’s website, click here:

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