Leadership Spotlight: James Costain

ISS Administrative Search was proud to lead the Head of School search for Legacy School in Bangalore, India. Congratulations to James Costain for accepting the position, beginning June 2022! James was most recently Head of Senior School at Repton International School, Malaysia.

James holds a MA in Leadership (Education) from the University of London and a PGCE in Secondary Education from the University of Exeter, UK. From his experiences in education around the world, to why he is particularly excited to join the Legacy School team in this moment, James shares about his journey and leadership vision below.

What drew you to pursue the world of education? And what drew you into international education specifically?

My initial steps into education were originally intended only to secure a teaching certificate which, I hoped, would help in competing for a lectureship to fund a PhD. I was still young and naive. When I look back, it clearly wasn’t necessary to get a PGCE for this purpose, but it also took me on a journey into working in boarding schools. I truly thrived in the immersive experience of working with students in this environment, within a large community collectively focused on learning across such a broad range of domains.

After ten years in Hampshire in one particularly wonderful school, I saw two futures which were more of the same in the UK, or completely new experiences abroad.

Having moved abroad, international education inspired me to really start exploring learning in a far more adventurous way. The context of international education allowed innovation with less inertia against change. This inspired my career in looking deeply at our practices, how we could improve, and just how far can we push for better learning for the students. This early experience has directed my work since, with a focus on cultures in which teachers’ and students are committed to improving their learning, to continuous learning, and to community-wide collaborative learning.

Where has your career taken you?

In 2006, after thirteen years in UK private boarding schools, I first moved overseas. I have been fortunate to have since worked in Kathmandu for five years, as well as in Spain, Germany and Ukraine. Each has been an incredible experience, and always brings new learning through the contrasts in both context and culture. What I have learned most powerfully is the extent to which the fundamentals are the same in the fostering and supporting of young people, no matter what the culture.

Prior to taking my current position, I worked with a colleague to establish Ethos Education as a founder and consultant, and used the time also to collaboratively develop a couple of professional learning apps. This experience followed my role in Kyiv as Head of School, and my time as Head of Organisational Learning. Through this position, I was involved in the development and implementation of some wonderful innovations and initiative through some inspirational collaborations with leaders across Europe. I am also currently the Chair for the ECIS SIG for Research Engaged Schools.


James and Elana, Ukrainian Director, visiting the Dnipro Campus

Legacy School

Congratulations on your new position at Legacy School! What excites you about being in this new role and school? What are your hopes?

What has been created at Legacy School has taken courage and conviction from the owners and the board. As a school, the governors have investing in a model for education and learning which is strongly aligned with their beliefs, and with my own. They have invested in creating a school which is innovative and founded upon strong principles, focused on learning and on the holistic development of students within an international setting.

I am very privileged not only to be joining the school’s journey at this stage, and to have opportunity to contribute to the planned evolution and innovations, but to have found the school at this time. This is a role and a community which brings to the fore the very best of my cumulative experiences and my strong beliefs for education. I am passionate about the education offered at Legacy School, and my hope is to attract wide attention to the school’s approaches to learning and the achievements it delivers.

Please tell us about your education philosophy and your leadership style. What can your new community expect?

I am committed to the fostering of schools as learning communities. It sounds obvious, but to create this, as opposed to simply saying this, requires real investment in foundational qualities and cultural agreements. I work collaboratively through investing in trust and strong relationships, to enable all members of the community to questions what they know, what they do, and to seek improvements and continuous growth, collectively and individually, every day. Placing our core values on trust, embracing high challenge whilst feeling safe to take this risks of doing so are the foundations towards which my leadership are primarily directed.

What was your experience with ISS Administrative Search like?

Outstanding professional service. ISS understands both school and candidate needs, and delivers a sensitive, supportive and reliable service at every stage of the recruitment process. A positive experienced, uncompromised at any stage.


Much appreciation to James for sharing his experience and journey; you can learn more about Ethos Education here. We are excited to see how his leadership will guide Legacy School’s continuing unique innovation and development!

If you’re interested in pursuing a school leadership position, please check out our current leadership searches or get in touch with the ISS Administrative Search Team.