Ashley Fitzgibbons is head of boarding at Swiss International School Dubai

Ashley has 12 years of experience in education, with the last four at SISD as an MYP & DP teacher, alongside her role as Deputy Head of Secondary (Pastoral). Her educational background includes a Bachelor of Commerce, Postgraduate Diploma in Education (Business) and a Professional Diploma in Mathematics.
Ashley has worked with the boarding staff and students on a day-to-day basis during her time at SISD. She is familiar with the boarding environment at the school, knows the boarding students well and we anticipate a very smooth and seamless handover process, which David and Ashley have already begun.
Ashley is particularly passionate about student wellbeing, ensuring ongoing student voice, regular celebration of success, and maintaining that students are at the centre of the learning process.

1. Can you describe your experience in overseeing boarding operations in an international school setting, particularly in the context of the Swiss International Scientific School in Dubai?
Being Head of Boarding is definitely the highlight of my career to date. Having progressed through education leadership on the pastoral route (Grade Learning Coordinator then Deputy Head of Secondary – Pastoral), Head of Boarding allows me to further engage in operations and academics. There are no two days the same in Zurich and Geneva house, which I love, as it keeps every day interesting. The role combines my two strengths, passions and interests – strong academic support and excellent pastoral care.

2. What strategies do you implement to ensure a safe, inclusive, and nurturing environment for boarding students at the Swiss International Scientific School in Dubai?
At SISD Boarding we have partnered with the Safeguarding Alliance to ensure we offer the highest levels of safeguarding in the boarding environment. Pastoral care and support is our number one priority, with all recruited team members carefully selected, not only for their academic qualifications but also their involvement in enrichment activities such as dance, football and hockey. Our wellbeing counsellor, Mrs Saskia Theres, is always on hand to support our students in the boarding houses in the evening. The boarding team also works extremely closely with the Secondary team to ensure there is high visibility on boarding students.

3. Can you share an example of a time when you successfully implemented innovative programs or initiatives to enhance the boarding experience for students at the Swiss International Scientific School in Dubai?
This year we have enhanced the environment through various different strategies such as an online Boarding Management System, regular student feedback sessions, development of Boarding Student Leadership, CPD for the boarding team student surveys, student ambassadors etc. it is hard to pick one initiative when really they all work together to ensure we provide the best home away from home for our students. We have increased our retention rate significantly this year so I think that is testament to the amount of work put in.

4. How do you foster community and encourage cultural diversity among boarding students in an international school setting?
We embrace our core value of Togetherness at SISD boarding, encouraging students to interact and socialize with each other regularly. Students are encouraged to celebrate their identities in the boarding houses and to teach others about them.

5. Can you provide examples of your experience promoting student well-being and mental health support within the boarding community?
This year we have raised the profile of student voice in the houses, encouraging students to always be IB communicators, and giving feedback. This has resulted in enhanced common rooms, a wider variety of sports and developments to the catering menus.

6. How do you collaborate with other departments within the school, such as academics, student services, and extracurricular activities, to create a cohesive and integrated experience for boarding students at the Swiss International Scientific School in Dubai?
Boarding could not exist without the support of the entire school community. From admissions to HR to facilities, so many members of SISD are involved in the provision for boarding on a daily basis. We work with Stryx and our Head of Sports, Rob Duncan to ensure students have access to our amazing facilities for sports and opportunities for sporting and extra-curricular enrichment are maximized.

7. Can you describe your approach to supervising and developing the boarding staff, including mentors and residential assistants, to provide students with a supportive and enriching environment?
We are a member of BSA (Boarding Schools Association) and our boarding team regularly engage in CPD with BAS and other professional organizations. In addition, all boarding staff have first aid training, water safety training and fire safety training. We have junior assistants from Loughborough University on our team who support their professional learning journey by offering various opportunities such as sports coaching, classroom teaching support etc.
We have also recently joined Nord Anglia Education group, and as one of the largest education and boarding organizations in the world, I am excited to see what opportunities for support and professional development will exist as part of this new group.

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