An interview with Timothy Fisher, Global CEO of Stirling Education

1- Describe your current role and some insight into your background?

I am the CEO and investment manager for Stirling Education. My responsibility is ensuring that our schools and university groups continue to focus on and obtain the very best education outcomes for which Stirling has, quite rightly, become very proud. If the education results continue to flourish then the financial performance duly follows.

By way of my background, I was born and raised in a coal mining village in the North of England. There were three community pillars in the village: the coal mine which created employment, the village school and the church – a place of support and celebration. I grew up believing in community values and how each one of us could contribute to the welfare of others who live and work around us. Our schools have a community ethos and this aspect is at the very heart of Stirling Education.

Throughout my time at school I was always interested in numbers and formulae. And, although I have a professional background in finance, I studied a first degree and a Masters degree in engineering at Imperial College, London – which was very mathematical. More numbers, more formulae…

Alongside education, I am equally motivated by sport. I believe in team work and achieving consistent results through working and communicating as a collective group. I am the Chairman of an English League football club. Professional sport is fascinating as it brings together many disciplines, including sports science, strength & conditioning, psychology & behavioural science, statistics and finance. A football club, very much like a school, sits at the heart of its local community and has a very important role to play within that community. A football club can have many positive influences – none more so than promoting learning and education or encouraging a healthier lifestyle through better diet and taking more exercise.

2.What does your typical work day look like?

Most days I jump out of bed around 5.30 – 6.00am. Having had a first cup of coffee, I walk my dog Cosmo before undertaking some form of exercise. I believe that there is a strong link between a healthy body and a healthy mind.

I spend a lot of time planning with my education and operations colleagues. Collectively, we believe that, as a team, “if you fail to plan then plan to fail!” Our strategic discussions might consider the design of a new school or, more recently, in the wake of Coronavirus, how we might best provide online teaching and digital education.

On any number of days, I will also be having calls or meetings with City Governors, Ministers of Education and the British Embassy. Stirling Education is very highly regarded and this is an outcome I am particularly proud of. Our schools have a wonderfully positive ‘halo effect’ in the community. Stirling Schools are seen as pioneers of education in the markets we operate in. The UK government is particularly proud of just what Stirling Education has achieved. We have frequent discussions with education stakeholders to see how best Stirling can continue to be positive influencers and contribute to local, state and community education.   

On some afternoons I will have meeting sessions regarding Stirling Foundation. Stirling Foundation is at the forefront of the charitable efforts in Iraq. We are proud that Stirling Foundation is working alongside aid agencies within the most disadvantaged communities to try and meet the education needs of the most vulnerable in the refugee camps.

As Chairman of an English football club, this is the busy time of year where we are preparing for a new season. It could be that some of my time may be spent reviewing the finer points of a player transfer or understanding the strength & conditioning performance statistics of the squad in pre-season training.  

Since the implementation of lockdown and working from home, the end of the working day has become less defined. Finding the time for an evening dog walk, a home-cooked meal, reading and more recently, outdoors catch-ups with friends all help to balance my busy days. With a little ‘me time’ added to my routine, I am ready to go again the next day.

3- What is Stirling Education’s vision?

Today, Stirling Education offers a student a safe, inclusive and supportive school environment to unlock their full academic potential. Our vision and aim are to inspire and empower students to become confident members of their immediate community whilst retaining a global outlook. As someone who has constantly travelled during their career and having lived and worked in London, Tokyo, New York and Frankfurt I believe a global perspective is essential. Living by a moral code is equally important and we actively encourage and develop a student’s sense of integrity, respect and social responsibility.

Whilst Stirling Education supports and encourages students to work towards achieving outstanding education outcomes and academic results, I strongly believe that, as a school group, we must aspire to create learning environments that also develop and build strong characters who have both a sense of independent and critical thinking, embrace and welcome problem solving, have a sense of mental resilience and, equally, nurture a student’s creativity and personal style.

Timothy Donald Fisher Investor and Chairman of the Board of Trustees International Burch University

4- Working in education can be incredibly rewarding but what achievements do you feel most proud of?

First and foremost, I am most pleased with the special trusting relationship developed between Stirling Education and our parents. Stirling Education has been trusted with the most precious of responsibilities: Nurturing a child’s educational welfare and personal development.

To date, our track record of success is proven and unrivalled. Stirling Schools have been recognised for creating a blend of academic outcomes allied with successfully nurturing a pupil’s character. For example, this academic year, in the Middle East, many of our students have attained outstanding results in the National Baccalaureate with some 74 students achieving top ten country-wide positions in terms of final results.

I would also assert that Stirling Education is bold in its forward-thinking and recognises a need to adapt to an everchanging technological world. Our curriculum has been adapted to contain a strong digital element, supported by excellent ICT teaching and the latest classroom technology. Our online and digital teaching offering has been pressure tested under the toughest of conditions: Global pandemic lockdown. Such was the online teaching capability and learning content that in all jurisdictions Stirling Schools rolled-out its learning management system, the National Ministries of Education requested access to the system for state school students. An accolade that we are immensely proud of.

Not for a moment could I forget my colleagues. Stirling Education has a wonderful team of educators and administrative staff. All are dedicated to delivering outstanding education. I am extremely honoured to call them friends as well as work colleagues.

Finally, Stirling Education is very proud of its Teachers Academy. As a group, we have in excess of 3,000 educators and we invest-in the professional development of all our teaching staff. Such is the scale of our teaching faculty that this is no small undertaking and it simply made most financial sense to seed invest and grow our own teachers’ academy – known as the UK Teachers Academy (UKTA).

The UKTA offers UK accredited teacher training, professional development and resources for educators in the Kindergarten –Year 12 years range. This includes taking graduates who then fast track to become certified educators.

5- What does the future hold for you?

In short, expansion of education provision into new markets. There are three markets we have recently entered. India, Spain and the UK. All for very different reasons.

We are building a school in Faridabad, South Delhi. India has a huge and expanding private education market. The education system is very much modelled on the UK system. I must also admit to being an India-phile. The three Cs: Culture, cuisine and cricket!

We have a vision to develop a network of schools across the principal cities of continental Europe. Madrid is an inspirational city and a wonderful starting point. The school we have acquired has a strong reputation and we look forward to building our European schools offering on solid foundation. Of course, spending time in Madrid will allow me to spend time in my most favourite of museums, Museo Nacional del Prado.

Our UK acquisition ends a two-year search for a school in my home country. We are proud and pleased in equal measure to have secured ownership of this school. The school won Pre-Preparatory School of the Year, 2019 and has been short listed for Preparatory School of the Year, 2020. Wonderful achievements indeed!

Of course, whilst musing over the future, I cannot forget the football club. It is hoped that the very near future will bring promotion to the Premier League. Play Up Sky Blues…

Timothy Fisher
Global CEO, Stirling Education