Dale Burr, the popular, first-ever, headteacher of Oakhurst Primary School has set off on his travels again to take up a headship of an international school following the British primary curriculum in Chicago.
Originally from Australia, Dale visited the UK on holiday in 1995 and stayed, bringing his breezy optimism and bright attitude to Westlea Primary School in West Swindon where he completed British teaching qualifications. He then moved onto nearby Brook Field primary before taking up a deputy headship in Calne followed by a headteacher role at Minety.
In September 2009 Dale opened Oakhurst with two teachers and 32 children in a portacabin for a year in a corner of the site, whilst building works took place in the background. Now there are 480 pupils.
“A colleague told me there’s nothing like opening a brand new school to create a shared ethos, and she was right,” said Dale. “I really enjoyed the family atmosphere at Minety and I wanted Oakhurst to have that village school feeling.
“For me, being as visible as possible has been the key, welcoming pupils and parents at the start of the day, spending time in the playground, going in and out of classrooms and even serving homemade scones and cream at a monthly parents get together. It’s all about letting parents and children know that the school is a place where we all work together to support and respect each other.
“I also wanted children to learn about the world around them and how other people across the planet live.”
Under Dale’s guidance the school blurred the distinction between year groups so, for example, nursery and reception children are mixed, in order to create a flexible environment for children. “I’m a big believer in giving children opportunities and experiences. If we in schools give them exposure to lots of different things, whether it’s music, art or sport alongside traditional subjects, hopefully we will trigger passion and enthusiasm for learning to take to secondary school.”
Now Dale is taking his undoubted enthusiasm to a private school in Chicago. He said: “I did a 15 month secondment with Ofsted in 2013 and I started thinking of new challenges when I returned. A friend told me about the international school network and the expansion of the Nord Anglia group in America. I applied and to my surprise they took me on.
“The British School of Chicago at Lincoln Park has 520 places for children aged two to eleven, spread over five floors and a playground on the flat roof. As a fee paying school with British qualified teachers there will certainly be differences like smaller classes and a large number of teachers.
“But I will be taking all the great experiences from Oakhurst with me and I will certainly be doing all I can to involve parents in their children’s education.”
Pictured top by Richard Wintle of Calyx, Dale joining in with a surprise flashdance for him organised by Revolution Performing Arts at the school fete on 2 July. Below, Dale with Aysha Akif who succeeda him at Oakhurst