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Meet our Assistant Head of Primary – Mark Polatajko

06 September 2019
Huili’s new academic year means plenty of new faces among both the staff and the pupils. Mark Polatajko joins us from the Wellington College International School and he is very excited to share his experiences and ideas to contribute to Huili’s ongoing mission to bring together the best of both Chinese and international education approaches.
While working over the road at Huili’s sister school, Wellington Shanghai, I was part of the team who saw the Lower Prep primary school quickly grow from just six classes to fifteen over a short period of time. 
This rapid growth meant that we had a lot of new people to accommodate and settle in, while making sure that everyone had the chance to develop and enjoy their learning as much as possible. Huili is younger than the Wellington International but has already shown to be a very successful school and is increasing its pupils and staff numbers; doubling its pupil and Chinese and Western staff this new academic year. This is a very familiar situation for me and one that I feel Huili, as a school and community, is ready to embrace as we prepare for the new year. During my final term at Wellington International, I was privileged to be able to come across to the Huili campus on many occasions, to start to get a feel for the school and the people who make it so special. I have come into classrooms, observed lessons and spoken with Huili teachers, parents and pupils. I have attended many of Huili’s outstanding whole-school events such as the summer and winter festivals and the excellent Friends of Huili ball. All of these different experiences gave me the same impression: that there is real passion for learning here at Huili and there is already a caring, cooperative and compassionate schoolwide community in place to support everyone who belongs to it. It has been both encouraging and reassuring for me to discover that Huili already feels very familiar, in the sense that the values and attitudes towards life and learning held by Wellington’s teachers and pupils are much the same here at Huili. Given that Huili is merely a year old, I think it is an impressive feat indeed for the community to come together so quickly and establish an environment that is dedicated to ensuring that every pupil can come to school excited in the knowledge that there is a full day of learning, laughter, friendship and fun waiting for them. I am very excited to be a part of the primary school team at Huili, as my whole working life has convinced me of the vital importance of getting children’s lifelong education journey right as early on as possible. For 20 years, prior to my life as a teacher, I was part of the British Government’s Foreign Service, working overseas while experiencing different cultures and promoting cooperation around the world. However, what led me to take up teaching was this feeling that the world was changing very rapidly indeed, and that there were problems and challenges which would not be solved by people in positions of power alone. Accordingly, I felt (and still believe) that it is essential to guide our children as best we can, to turn them into the next generation of leaders, innovators, problem-solvers and free thinkers. It is for this reason that I am particularly excited to see Huili’s bilingual education system in action. My priority for this academic year is to make sure that both our staff and pupils have all the resources and opportunities they need to access the very best of what both education systems have to offer. Again, Huili has already shown in its opening year that amazing things can happen when passionate, dedicated teachers from across the world pool their ideas and expertise to create and deliver a bilingual curriculum that really does give its pupils the fish and the bear’s paw. Even from my initial impression of Huili, it is clear to see that it is a place full of pupils, teachers and support staff of all ages and backgrounds, who are excited by the opportunity to work and learn from each other. My role is to strengthen those bonds of learning and cooperation between teachers, between pupils and, importantly, between these two groups. With the school doubling in numbers, it is essential to ensure that no single pupil gets lost, but to identify and support those who are both excelling and maybe some who may need additional support and direction, both academically and pastorally. Fortunately, there is a wealth of experience and energy from both the founding staff team and the newly arrived teachers that will ensure that all pupils receive the best education and support. At Huili school, we always keep an open mind to new educational ideas from China and elsewhere that would help support, guide and develop the pupils. We need to continue to be at the forefront of educational research to keep evolving and strengthening Huili’s opportunities to ensure the best bilingual education that Shanghai, China and even the world can offer. Giving Huili pupils the opportunity to experience the best of a multicultural learning environment, while ensuring the pupils maintain their Chinese language and their wonderful cultural heritage will ultimately give them what will be the best opportunity to be global leaders in any field that they choose. I greatly look forward to getting to know you, the parents, pupils and staff members of Huili, better in the coming days. I already feel entirely welcome here and I know that we, as a Huili community,  are going to do great things together this year.

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The Huili School Shanghai Community is committed to safeguarding and promoting the welfare of its pupils.