Meet Richard Spence – Director of Teaching and Learning 

We are delighted to welcome Richard Spence as the new Director of Teaching and Learning at Scotch College. Back in the UK Richard taught at Alperton College in central London, whilst here in Perth he has held roles at Shenton College, Churchlands SHS, Perth Modern School, Bob Hawke College and Christ Church Grammar as well as Cape Naturalist College in Vasse in the South West. As we welcome him into his new role, we take a few minutes out of his busy schedule to find out more about him.   

Richard, welcome to Scotch! Tell us a bit about yourself and your family and what has led you to Scotch College. 

Thank you – I'm delighted and excited to be here! The introduction above provides some shape around my relatively diverse educational journey. I think the most salient additional point is that I became heavily involved in teaching and learning at my most recent school, Bob Hawke College, and that helps explain how I came to this position at Scotch. In essence I was part of a team that was recruited to set up and open that school, which also involved the utopia of being employed at a school with no students for 6 months! My brief was in part to research and then implement best practice in teaching and learning; it's an important area and one I am passionate about. That experience helped me when it came to applying for the role here.    

I am married to Claire who is a vet, she originally heralds from Glasgow and although she has been here for 30 years you can certainly still hear the accent loud and clear; at least I can usually understand her, which is more than I can say for my in-laws! 

We have two kids – my son has just finished his ATAR exams and heading off for the maelstrom of leavers in Dunsborough; my daughter is 16 and in Year 10. 

You have spent the last 18 years in Australia, 4 of which were down in the South West. What have you enjoyed most about your time in Western Australia? 

A cliché but without question number one for me is the climate. I come from Stoke-on-Trent in the UK. About this time of year through to early March it can be a bit grim 'up north' (although Stoke is technically in the Midlands). In soccer, the test of any team with aspirations of glory is 'can do it on a cold rainy night in Stoke?' – well I couldn't! Not sure if fellow Stokies Jacqui Langley and Amy Ward-Gordon would agree! 

Your role is a busy one, spanning from Pre-Kindergarten to Year 12 and encompassing ATAR, IB and VET. How do you manage such a diverse portfolio? 

This is an excellent question! At present, as I am getting a handle on what is, as you say, a complex role, I am leaning on the many excellent and helpful colleagues I have here.  

Over time, I will identify areas where I think I can most add value, and my focus will always be on improving teaching and learning in the classroom without adding additional workload to our staff. That is not to say the teaching and learning here is not already of a high standard, it is, but as professionals we should always strive to get better.  

You speak about cognitive science. Can you explain what this is and how you see this impacting the learning at an all-boys' school?   

One of the key developments in pedagogy over the past decade is the widespread application of a basic understanding of cognitive science in the classroom. This means teachers understanding how students learn best and designing lesson sequences to support this process. This is linked to cognitive load theory and how we make memories and why we forget. It's a fascinating area and is valuable for all teachers to be aware of when designing unit outlines that maximise knowledge retention. 

The breadth of opportunities available to our students from sport to community service, music and enrichment programmes is quite remarkable. From a Teaching and Learning perspective, how do you ensure focus remains sharp when it comes to academics? 

Scotch is an extraordinary school. With all the additional opportunities available outside the classroom, we need to make sure we are maximising the face-to-face lesson time we have with boys. Providing an elite academic education remains core business here.

We are doing a fantastic job in this regard, but my job is to work with staff to see how we can do it even better. 

What are your goals and aspirations for your department in the next 6 months?

I think my primary goal will be to know my way around the campus by then.

Other than that, many ideas / initiatives are mentioned above, but I am keen to establish some overarching goals for professional learning for staff and to provide more structured coaching and support to allow staff to realise these goals.  

I would also like to re-establish non-evaluative peer observations here. I am mindful of staff workloads and priorities, but I think observations both inside and outside of your departments are hugely valuable in supporting professional growth and a sense of collective teacher efficacy.  

Finally, a little bird tells us you have a particular hobby. Tell us about your beekeeping! 

Well, my bees are very neglected these days given the limited time I get to go down there now. The hives are nestled in the Yallingup hills and produce some good quality red gum honey once the Marri trees blossom. If anyone is keen for a taster pot, I have a few left so let me know! 

Discover more about Teaching and Learning at Scotch