From a small town in the UK to the metropolitan city of Jakarta, Emma Webb has had her fair share of working in exceptional schools in her homeland and internationally.
Emma takes on the role as the Head of School at The Independent School of Jakarta (ISJ), where she closely encourages and nurturing pupils to become independent and skilled individuals from a young age. Let’s take a closer look at ISJ and get to know Emma better.
Hi Emma! Tell us about yourself.
Hi there. I grew up in a small town not far from London where I attended a leading private school. I graduated from the University of London and then went on to complete my teacher training at Master’s level. I’ve worked in exceptional schools throughout my career, both in the UK and internationally. Prior to joining ISJ, I was the headmistress of Queen’s College Preparatory School, a prestigious and historic independent school in central London. I’m joined in Jakarta by my husband, and we have a son and a daughter who attended Cheltenham College and are now studying History at the University of Exeter and Classics at University College London.
What made you move to Jakarta and what have you grown to love so far?
Primarily, I moved to Jakarta because I was so inspired by the vision articulated by the board of ISJ. It was clear from the very start that this was going to be an extraordinary school, and I was honoured to be offered the opportunity to lead it. Indonesia is, of course, a wonderful country with a fascinating and diverse culture and I’m very much looking to exploring the archipelago, meeting people, and learning more about its customs and traditions. I’ve loved every minute of being in Jakarta so far – even the traffic has been kind to me!
You describe yourself as an “experienced head with a demonstrated history of providing inspirational, collaborative, and highly professional school leadership in the UK and internationally”. What challenges have you faced through the years?
I tend to see challenges as opportunities to grow and make things better, and I’ve been lucky to have had many such opportunities over the years. Most recently, the COVID-19 pandemic provided me with the opportunity to develop a first-class virtual learning environment and a bespoke remote learning system that ensured continuous exceptional education and pastoral care at my previous school in London. When the school re-opened, I had the opportunity to create a learning environment that was COVID-secure, but which remained a happy and joyous place for the children to be. Earlier in my career, I guided the British School in Riyadh through the Council of International Schools rigorous two-year accreditation process, leading to their inaugural accreditation – a hugely challenging, but very rewarding process.
What about a message you find yourself always conveying to students?
I ask the children in my care to live with integrity and dignity and to be patient, kind, and honest. I ask them to work hard and to do their best. By filling each day with life, love, work and play, I tell them, they will find their place in a world that’s better because they’re in it. I make sure that every child knows that I believe in them and in their capacity to make a difference. I want them to be proud of their accomplishments and excited about the future!
As head of school at ISJ, what are you most looking forward to in the role?
I’m most looking forward to welcoming the children into school, and to getting to know each of them as they make new friends and explore the wonderful new environment we’ve created for them. A great year awaits, and I can’t wait to get started!
ISJ is a newly open school located in Pondok Indah, South Jakarta. Take us through the story behind its establishment.
ISJ has been chartered by The Schools Development Foundation to establish an independent school in Jakarta. The foundation’s purpose is to support and expand the provision of world-class education around the world. The board has decades of experience establishing and providing oversight of international schools all over the world, from New York to China to Brazil, and beyond, and is keen to see ISJ grow into one of the leading schools not only in Jakarta but the region.
What does ISJ offer to both pupils and parents?
ISJ is a very happy, safe, and stimulating place where every child is an important individual. With only one class in each year group, we’re able to work with every child to bring out the very best in them; we build independence and the skills to work collaboratively so that our pupils grow as learners and as people.
ISJ pupils are encouraged to think for themselves, not follow the crowd; to be ambitious, resilient, and resourceful. Our approach and teaching from the outset are designed to give the message that learning is fun and that how we behave matters.
A genuine emphasis is placed on concern and respect for others, and on our responsibilities as members of our strong and caring community. There will be a strong sense of belonging at ISJ, and our parents are very much part of that. They’re always welcome in school, and we encourage them to be actively involved in their son or daughter’s education. They are, after all, the most important people in their lives.
Describe the facilities that students can enjoy at the school.
Our children are very lucky to have access to some of the finest facilities in South Jakarta. Our exceptional new building has been purpose-built to cater for the demands of first-class 21st-century education and a very wide range of interests and talents. Our children will be learning science and engineering in our bespoke STEM lab and developing their artistic and creative skills in our wonderful art studio and music rooms. Our extensive sports facilities include an outdoor sports pitch, indoor gym, climbing wall, and swimming pool. Our youngest children benefit from dedicated state-of-the-art indoor and outdoor facilities to promote a love of learning and academic excellence from the very start.
The school uses the terms “Pre-Prep” and “The Prep School”. Can you elaborate on that, please?
The most prestigious schools in the UK for children up to the age of 13 are “Pre-Prep” and “Prep Schools”. We use the terms to reflect the rich British heritage that ISJ is founded upon and to define our commitment to the educational excellence that is embodied in those schools.
As the terms suggest, UK independent, or private schools, pre-prep and prep schools are there to “prepare” pupils for entry to public schools and elite private secondary schools. Rather confusingly, the term “public school” in the UK is used to describe the oldest and most exclusive private secondary schools in the country, such as Eton College.
What specialities make ISJ stand out amongst other international schools in the capital?
As a small and exclusive independent school, I’ll take a personal interest in the development of each and every child, and they’ll be supported by a team of exceptional specialist teachers as well as their class teachers.
We’re very lucky to have an extraordinary team of staff at ISJ, many of whom have been recruited directly from the very best private schools in the UK. They bring a vast amount of experience and expertise to Jakarta.
Our broad and balanced curriculum is based on that provided in leading British private schools and provides our children with an exceptionally rich variety of experiences. I firmly believe that all children have strengths and talents, and one of our most important tasks is to help them to find them. You can’t do that with a narrow curriculum that devalues the importance of artistic, musical, creative or physical endeavours.
We provide world-class, specialist teaching and coaching in competitive sports and music, and expose our children to as many things as we possibly can to help them to find something they’re passionate about, that they enjoy, and are good at. We celebrate achievement in everything equally. By providing the children with the opportunity to shine and face challenges in many different ways, we help them to develop inner confidence and strength of character.
In your opinion, how can a school lay the foundations for success at school, university, and adult life?
It goes without saying that academic achievement is the cornerstone of future success. However, the very best schools also build character and self-esteem in their children so that they grow into confident, compassionate, accomplished, and well-rounded young people who are strong and resilient. Our children will leave us exceptionally well prepared for the next phase of their education; they’ll know what to do to overcome challenges and they’ll know how to make the most of their strengths.
Are there any announcements our readers should look out for?
We have many exciting plans for the school to share in the coming months. We’ll be introducing our fabulous new campus and our world-class, bespoke virtual learning environment.
We’ll be talking about the importance of maintaining mental and physical health and sharing with parents some of the ways that they can support their child at home. We’ll introduce our co-curricular, wraparound care and summer camp programmes, which have been designed to support our working parents and provide a rich variety of activities for our children.
We’ll be focussing on global challenges and explaining how we’ll develop our children’s understanding of what it means to be a truly responsible global citizen. We’ll introduce our engineering programme and explain how we are doing all we can to minimise our carbon footprint. Do follow us on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook to keep up to date on the latest developments!
Does being a trained inspector for the Independent Schools Inspectorate (ISI) come in handy at ISJ?
Absolutely. ISI inspects all the leading independent schools in the UK, including schools such as Eton, Harrow, Wycombe Abbey, and Westminster. ISI uses criteria to judge school quality which have been specifically designed to reflect the high levels of performance found in these schools. As a trained inspector, I will ensure that ISJ meets or exceeds the criteria set by ISI from our very first day.
Share a fun fact about yourself.
When I was 20, I went on a day trip to Buenos Aires… from London! It’s a long story!
Where can readers get in touch with you and ISJ?
Readers can get in touch with us by visiting our website (www.isj.id), where they’ll find all our contact details including email, phone, and WhatsApp. We’d love to hear from them and we are now booking private tours of the school!
Thanks for your time, Emma. Hope you stay healthy and safe!
It has been a pleasure. Take care!