Keith Pearey, 53, who is originally from Billingham in the north east of England is the current headteacher of the British School of Paris. He has been there for the last 24 years so he knows a thing or two about the place and the ups and downs of living and working in France. He also has possibly one of the best officers in Paris,as it over looks the River Seine at Croissy-sur-Seine.
The former deputy head was asked to take charge of the British school for the next year but he will then hand over the reins to Nick Hammond, whose appointment was announced recently. Pearey will then return to being deputy headteacher, a position he favours.
What’s it like being the headteacher of the British School of Paris?
It’s very, very challenging. Previously as deputy head I had more time with the children but as head you are much more involved in the bureaucratic side of things. We try to deliver a high quality product so with that comes challenges and quite a lot of pressure but the rewards are fantastic. It's nice to be with parents and families and to be able to offer something to them that they would only expect to get back in the UK.
What’s the best thing about the job?
The children, without question. Spending time with them outside the classroom beyond the day to day teaching on all the extra-curricular activities we offer.
What’s the worst thing about the job?
I will have to be careful what I say but I suppose it’s having to adhere to all the French laws and regulations etc.
What would expats in Paris send their kids to the British school?
We are in a privileged position to be able to offer what the British government offers as an education in Britain. We are obviously not obliged to follow everything and we tailor what we do to suit our needs but we are unashamedly British.
What do you make of the French education system?
Well it’s unashamedly academic. If you are bright and able you will do incredibly well.
What are the advantages of the British school over a French school in Paris?
I think the driving force behind the British system is the pastoral system of caring for the children. It’s not just about providing an education but also about looking after the children and making sure they are performing to the best of their ability and monitoring their progress all the time. I think the French are starting to look at international schools and they want to see how we are doing things.
We hope to tailor our teaching accordingly to the needs of each child. We hope to support them to help them pursue whatever career they wish to follow in the future and to allow them to follow their dreams.
Where do recruit your teachers from?
We have very close links to the UK and will recruit from both the state and independent sector over there. We had around 110 applicants for the most recent position which gives the school fantastic options and allows us to have a high quality of teaching.
You say the school is unashamedly British. Do you have lots of links with the British community?
We have very close links with the Royal British Legion and the British Embassy. The ambassador is actually our our patron. The school is a real link for the British community in the Paris area. It's a very tight knit and there' a wonderful atmosphere. But the school itself takes in children of all nationalities. I think the most recent figures showed that around 37 percent of pupils were British.
How did you actually end up in Paris?
I was teaching in the Middle East in a school in Amman, Jordan and an opportunity came up to move to Paris. I was actually advised by someone not to go to Paris. I said ‘why not’ and they said ‘Because you will never leave'. How right he was.
So why haven’t you left?
Paris has so much to offer. You just have to think about the cultural diversity here. There’s never a dull moment. There’s also the attraction of France itself, the lifestyle that we all enjoy. I have travelled a lot with the school but I always love coming back to Paris.
For more information on the British school visit www.britishschool.fr