Thank you to the 1646 leaders who’ve generously done the 7 questions! I hope reading 7 Questions with
Dr Andy Kemp
helps you in your leadership.
Dr Andy Kemp
Name: Dr Andy Kemp
Organisation: The National Mathematics and Science College
Dr Andy Kemp is Principal of The National Mathematics and Science College, based in the Midlands on the edge of the Warwick University campus. The National Mathematics and Science College is the top performing specialist STEM sixth form day and boarding school in the UK. Joining NatMatSci was something of a homecoming for him as he studied for his BSc in Mathematics, PGCE, MSc and EdD in Mathematics Education all at the University of Warwick. More recently he has completed his MBA at UCL in 2017.
He has spoken at conferences around the world in relation to the role that technology plays in education, and in particular mathematics education, and has been published in several journals, magazines, and collective works.
1. What have you found most challenging as a leader?
Leadership is a complicated and multifaceted role, and the most challenging aspect for me has been balancing the important and the urgent. In my early days in leadership roles it was too easy to get distracted by the urgent day-to-day needs, and get caught in the trap of reacting to situations instead of responding.
As time has gone on I've realised that if I focus more on the strategic aspects of leadership then the day-to-day aspects also become easier to manage.
2. How did you become a leader? Can you please briefly tell the story?
I entered the teaching profession because I loved Mathematics and wanted to share that passion with others. Gradually over the years I was given opportunities to lead in small areas.
I realised over time that I could have a wider influence by working through others rather than just directly influencing the students in my classes.
As a result as opportunities arose for me to take on more responsibilities I was keen to take these on, working up to my role today as Principal of The National Mathematics and Science College.
3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?
I live quite a long way away from the College (about a 90min drive each way) so I'm up and out of the house just after 6am, getting into College around 07:45am. I'll typically spend the first 45mins or so catching up with emails which may have come in overnight, and catching up with my EA on the plan for the day.
The College day starts at 08:30, and the rhythm of each day is different - some days I might teach a lesson, meet with members of my senior team either individually or collectively.
The rest of my day will be made of various activities:
* Interviewing prospective students for the College
* Meeting with visiting families or educational agents
* Planning for and meeting with our board of governors
* Strategic planning for projects
I also spend a significant proportion of the year travelling for recruitment, which involves me meeting with agents and families, giving talks, attending education fayres, and interviewing students.
4. What's a recent leadership lesson you've learned for the first time or been reminded of?
This last year I've been travelling more than usual for work, and as a result I've been away from the College. I realise how much I normally rely on informal leadership approaches which reply on me being physically present.
I've had to reflect on how I achieve the same outcomes when I'm less physically present to ensure the team are all working together to achieve our shared aims, and that we continue to make as much progress when I'm away as we do when I'm present.
I've worked on a restructuring of the way the senior team operates as a result which I am optimistic will provide a more formal structure, without losing the personal approach.
5. What's one book that has had a profound impact on your leadership so far? Can you please briefly tell the story of how that book impacted your leadership?
"Start with Why" by Simon Sinek has been a book I've returned to time and time again. It is too easy to focus on what we are doing, without spending enough time thinking about why... If we start with understanding our underlying 'whys' it is much easier to both work out what to do, but also to get buy-in from everyone to go through with what needs to be done.
6. If you could only give one piece of advice to a young leader, what would you say to them?
Surround yourself with great people - you don't have to be brilliant at everything. Your job as a leader is to co-ordinate and give direction to the team, not to do their work for them.
Build a great team, trust them, and you can achieve much more than you could by yourself!
7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a leader, so far?
The journey of The National Mathematics and Science College over the last 3 years has been an incredible story. When I took over as Principal 3 years ago the College had only 54 students, and had been operating in a significant loss making position for a number of years.
In just 3 years we've grown to nearly 150 students, moved to a position where we are making a cash profit, achieved phenomenal academic successes being ranked in the top 10 co-educational boarding schools in the UK, and as one of the top 250 boarding schools in the world.
It's been a journey that has required being fleet of foot, responding not only to the normal challenges that schools face but also to COVID in a boarding school.
It has required regular reviewing of our strategic approaches and adapting to a changing market and a growing school. The team have been fantastic, adapting and adjusting as needs changed and we moved from being a very small school to something more establish and structured.
My role has evolved significantly over the time, in the first year, I was involved in every aspect of the College's life on a day-to-day basis. Gradually as we've grown we've restructured and I've moved into a more traditional leadership role working with and through my excellent leadership team who have grown and adapted to our new needs.