Richard Karren, Nottingham

At a time when many in the teaching profession are looking to take their first or next step, the Isle of Man is providing exciting opportunities to thrive. The chance of a progressive career alongside a great work-life balance is truly making it an Island of opportunity.

How long have you lived on the Isle of Man and what made you move (back) here?
I moved back as I wanted to spend more time with my family. In addition, I was beginning to realise just how beautiful and peaceful the Island is and, with each visit home, became increasingly keen on settling here. The mix of ‘town and countryside’ really appealed, as did the ability to escape to the coast for fresh air was very much a motivating factor.

As a teacher who believes education should be more than just an academic pursuit, I was also captivated by the emphasis that Manx schools place on ‘extra-curricular learning’ and how involved they are in community life. This area of student development is simply on a different scale as most schools in the UK just don’t see it as such a priority.

Tell us about your job – what do you enjoy most about it?
I am Director of Sixth Form at Ballakermeen High School. It is most definitely the best job role I have ever had and I just love the hustle and bustle of working in such a big and comprehensive school. The facilities in our school, and indeed every state school in the Island, are fantastic and the envy of so many schools in the UK. I feel our Island places a very healthy emphasis on post-16 education and the Department of Education, Sport and Culture has invested a lot of money into this provision, ensuring we can help our students achieve their aspirations.

How has your move to the Isle of Man benefitted you?
Well, as a starter for 10, communication between the five main secondary schools is superb and this means you get the chance to work with a number of different colleagues and learn from them. We don’t really have a culture of competition between schools (okay, perhaps in sports fixtures!!) because we are all so proud to be ‘Islanders’ and just want the best for all students, whether they are in our school or at another. This creates a very healthy ‘sharing culture’ and a feeling that we all stick up for each other. Whilst I enjoyed my school in the UK, it was quite insular, and I didn’t feel there were too many opportunities to share good practice outside of our own walls. In addition to this, the Department of Education, Sport and Culture has backed me financially whenever I have asked to go on a course in the UK. To have this kind of support is incredible and helps us feel we are always progressing professionally.

What difference has living back in the Isle of Man made to your work-life balance?
I feel a completely different person than I was three years ago. My work-life balance is much healthier because Islanders tend to have their priorities right in this area. From day one, I was encouraged to work hard in school but to ‘relax hard’ out of it. The plethora of outdoor activities available to us means that we can escape our job at weekends in such a positive manner. There are naturally a range of activities in the UK but the accessibility of these opportunities is just better here. In addition, it never takes more than 10 minutes to travel to a friend’s house and that has been a lovely change for me - my social life is a hundred times better!

What’s the best-kept secret on the Isle of Man?
You want me to limit it to one?! There are so many. Most people will focus on the incredible areas of natural beauty or the range of coffee shops and restaurants within walking distance. However, for me, the best kept secret is the ‘community spirit’. When I first moved here, I had more offers of help within a month than I had received in 15 years in the UK. When out walking, people regularly stopped and asked if I wanted a lift and I even received cards of support, wishing me ‘Good Luck’ in my job (I often didn’t know these people!). This made me realise how valued the teaching profession is in the Isle of Man and also how much people want us to succeed. There is definitely a culture of celebrating success in education (you only need to read the local paper each week to see that) and this rubs off on the students too - when they see their achievements being celebrated, it makes them want to achieve even more.

What are your ambitions for life on the Island?
For the moment, I feel that I have the best job in the world so I am not necessarily wanting to rush towards promotion. However, the more I live here, the further invested I become in our shared vision to become a beacon of ‘Outstanding Education’. Maybe, if I don’t make too many mistakes, I will one day advance into a role where I can help progress this vision, not just for the post-16 students but all age groups.

As for life outside of work, I want to keep exploring and enjoying the natural beauty on my doorstep. During the latest lockdown, I have visited places that I have never previously seen and some of the views were breathtaking. This Island never stops giving, it is a wonderful place to live.

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