Skip To Main Content
Ryan Sullivan - Teacher Supply Case Study
  • Teacher Supply

Ryan Sullivan, Doha College


Ryan is Head of Primary Music at Doha College in Qatar. He trained as a professional musician in the UK, and then moved into international education, working in Spain before moving to Qatar. He gained Qualified Teacher Status through the Assessment Only route while working at Doha College.


Ryan studied music performance (bassoon and voice) at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, and was enjoying a successful career as a musician with freelance work and a number of high-profile performance awards. Alongside his musical work and training, he had also started taking on some teaching opportunities, including teaching English for the British Council in China and Thailand, as well as working as a facilitator for the National Youth Choir of Scotland. He found that he was getting as much satisfaction from the teaching as he was from his performing.

Ryan was planning to go to Mannheim to complete a Masters in music performance, but found himself wondering if this was the right path. He looked on Tes just to see what was available – who was looking for a music teacher and what did they want.

I was bold, applied to a few schools, and had three responses.

Ryan was offered a job at a tri-lingual school in Girona, Spain. They wanted someone who could teach Primary and Secondary music, with the youngest children taught in Spanish (which Ryan speaks), as well as providing supplementary English lessons.

I got on a plane to Barcelona and it was amazing.

Ryan loved his time at his first international school, but he felt that he needed to look at other opportunities in order to continue to develop as a teacher.

I realised I had good, raw natural talent as a teacher, but there were gaps in my teaching and learning. I had studied pedagogy from a musical perspective, but not from an education perspective.

Ryan moved to an IB school in Qatar, initially as a secondary music teacher, and was subsequently encouraged to take on a Head of Professional Development role. After only a year and half of full-time teaching, he was now in a whole school leadership role with responsibility for CPD.

When he was ready to move on, he saw that Doha College – a highly regarded school in Qatar – was advertising for a primary and secondary music teacher.

I thought they probably wouldn’t entertain me. I was conscious that I didn’t have a PGCE, and Doha College won’t negotiate on that – rightly so.

But he applied anyway, and after an interview and lesson observation, he was contacted by the school.

I had a phone call from HR who said the leadership group would like to offer you the role, but we can’t have one of our teachers without QTS, therefore we had to find a solution.

The proposed solution was that the school would support Ryan to complete his Assessment-Only QTS through Tes Institute. Ryan jumped at the chance. He started at the school in August 2018, and was very positive about the experience.

It was just brilliant – every day was so diverse.

He progressed quickly to Head of Primary Music, but is still also teaching Foundation Stage to Year 8, as well as supporting with GCSE and A Level performance, accompanying, and moderation of coursework. Not one to stand still, he has also now started a remote MBA with the University of Leicester.


Ryan had significant teaching experience, in a variety of settings, by the time he embarked on a formal teaching qualification. He did not find the AO-QTS experience particularly onerous.

You have to have been teaching for a number of years in various contexts. You compile evidence that has to be measured against teaching standards. Some things I could have provided a book on, others I had to be more imaginative.

While for Ryan, this was largely a box-ticking exercise – collating evidence, being observed, observing – he does feel that it improved his understanding of some processes, such as lesson observation. And he found the final validation/assessment, from an experienced international school head, to be very thorough.

It was good confirmation that a lot will come naturally, and evolve the more you teach and you’re in the profession.

Members of his school community, which is a COBIS Training School, are working as part of the Tes Advisory Board to continue to develop and hone the international ITT offer.


Although Ryan’s teaching qualification would be recognised in the UK, he does not expect to teach in the UK, primarily because he values the cultural diversity of working abroad, which contrasts with the environment in which he grew up. From the point when he started doing some work in Asia with the British Council, he enjoyed the thrill of hearing different languages, of having to steer around the subtleties of different cultures and different nationalities.

I realise there are many schools in the UK that could have as diverse a student body, but in the Middle East that diversity permeates my personal and work life, and is as exciting to me as the teaching and learning.

Ryan would consider working in another country, but feels the choice of school would be more important to him than the country itself. And although the MBA and his experience will set him on a clear track to senior leadership, he is not currently interested in a job without regular contact with students.

Days when I’m really wired, I walk around to the KS1 play area and have a snack with them. 20 minutes and you’re back to where you want to be.


Ryan reflects on his own experience of completing a teaching qualification, and thinks that the more traditional PGCE approach may not be the best way to engage and inspire new teachers. He suggests training institutions could also do more to package up teaching qualifications with other qualifications or carve out clear, accessible pathways to teaching. He gives the example of students completing a BMus, many of whom are likely to go on to do at least some peripatetic music teaching with local authorities. He recommends a model where a teaching qualification can be embedded in a BMus, or at least providing a clearer pathway to qualified teacher from other degrees.

Ryan also talks about Doha College’s developing Education & Innovation Forum, and the fact that the school is now providing opportunities for PGCE students to train within Doha College.

That’s brilliant – PGCE students getting opportunities to work with some of the best practitioners in the business. You do your training in this amazing school, you will be well supported, great CPD opportunities, great colleagues.

But he is also mindful that new teachers could be disenchanted from the profession if the first school they go to as a newly qualified teacher, after their experience at Doha College, is not of the same high calibre.

Doha College were part of the first cohort of COBIS Training Schools, working alongside other top British international schools to contribute to the growth of the global teacher workforce.

Read the results of our Teacher Supply research here


  • CPD
  • Doha College
  • Teacher Supply