Stephen Codrington

Detailed Biography

Stephen Codrington is known internationally as a result of his career as the Head of five schools in four countries across three continents over 25 years, his authorship of some 70 books, his travel leadership and his public speaking.

Stephen provides support to school boards and leaders through Optimal School Governance,  a focussed consultancy in school board effectiveness that he established in late 2014. Through his several roles, Stephen is thus fulfilling his passion to help form the next generation of young teachers, as well as assisting educational leaders and school boards in all parts of the world to improve the value they add through their management and governance processes, strategic planning, leadership dynamics, performance reviews, change management and operational effectiveness.

He is currently Chair of the board at Djarragun College, a non-denominational triple-campus independent college near Cairns, Queensland, that specialises in providing an excellent learning environment for Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander students from Prep to Year 12, both day and boarding.

Stephen is recognised globally as the author of 70 books, many of which are textbooks for Geography. His book ‘Planet Geography’, which was published in seven editions between 2002 and 2013, was expanded in 2017 into a set of 10 books to support the new International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma Geography syllabus. These books are profusely illustrated with thousands of Stephen’s own photos, reflecting his keen hobby of photography, many of which were taken on his travels through the 168 countries he has now visited.

Originally published in 2002, Planet Geography was the first textbook written especially for IB Geography, and it is currently being used in 92 countries. Details of the book can be seen at Another recent book, ‘Optimal School Governance’, is a ground-breaking practical handbook for members of school boards on effective governance, and the book supports Stephen’s work with school boards around the world.

Stephen’s academic backgrounds are Geography, Economics and Philosophy, and he is a former President of both the Geographical Society of New South Wales and the Geography Teachers' Association of New South Wales (twice). He is currently treasurer of the Geographical Society of New South Wales. He has led several successful geographical study tours to such diverse destinations as China, Myanmar, Russia, Estonia, Uzbekistan, Papua New Guinea, Indonesia (Irian Jaya), Thailand and North Korea. In 2005, he led a delegation of the first foreign students ever to visit North Korea - the first of nine trips he has now undertaken to that little-known and isolated country.

In 2014 to 2015, he worked in a part-time role teaching Geography at the Australian Catholic University, specialising in the fields of Environmental Sustainability and the Human Geography of Globalisation.  From 2018 to 2022 he served as the Director of School Governance and Leadership Development, as well as Senior Lecturer, at Alphacrucis College, a Christian tertiary college with multiple campuses across Australia and New Zealand.  Stephen’s work was focussed on the College’s main campus in Parramatta (Sydney, Australia), where he conducted research, professional development and school reviews, and taught both undergraduate and postgraduate courses in areas such as Critical Thinking, Educational Policy Development, Indigenous and Multicultural Education, Action Research, Geography, History and Religious Education.  He continues to support Alphacrucis College by supervising several PhD students.  He is also writing course material for the Masters of Educational Leadership program at Morling College and he serves as a mentor for school leaders with the Australian Council for Educational Leaders.

He has been honoured with election as a Fellow of the Australian College of Education, the Royal Geographical Society (UK), the International Biographical Association, and the Geographical Society of NSW, including both a Fellowship and Life Membership of the Geographical Society, as well as being elected a Member of the Order of International Fellowship. He is a former Chairman of H.I.C.E.S. (Heads of Independent Co-educational Schools) and a former Vice-President of A.E.C.S. (the Association of Executives of Christian Schools).

He edited Geography Bulletin, the journal of the Geography Teachers' Association of New South Wales from 1980 to 1986. He has been listed in Who’s Who in Australia every year since 2003.

From 1996 to 2001 he served as Deputy Chief Examiner in Geography for the International Baccalaureate (I.B.), setting examination papers for the I.B. and assisting with curriculum development. During his terms as Deputy Chief Examiner, he led many teachers' workshops in places such as Melbourne, Guangzhou, Singapore, Brisbane, Auckland, Adelaide, Hong Kong and Mumbai. In 2014, Stephen was appointed an IB Ambassador.

Stephen’s own formal school education was undertaken at Ryde Public School (1958-64), Denistone East Public School (1965) and Drummoyne Boys’ High School (1966-71).  He represented the school as a member of the Open 1sts teams in Tennis and Debating, both activities providing many excellent opportunities to learn about the importance of humility in defeat.  For the Higher School Certificate examination of 1971, Stephen studied English, French and Geography at Level 1, and Maths and Science at Level 2S.  He topped the state in the Geography examination with a mark of 171 out of a possible 180.

He attained his Bachelor of Arts (with 1st class Honours) and Diploma of Education (B.A. (Hons), Dip.Ed.) from Macquarie University in 1976, and his Doctorate of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Economic Geography in 1983, the title of his thesis being “The impact of government statutory marketing authorities on the viability of the liquid milk industry in the Bega Valley, 1975-76 to 1980-81”.

Stephen began his teaching career in 1977, and quickly advanced to the role of Departmental Chair of Geography at St Ignatius College, Riverview, a prestigious Jesuit boys’ school in Sydney, Australia. During his 12 years at Riverview, he undertook a one year teaching exchange at Stonyhurst College, another Jesuit school (in Lancashire, UK).

Stephen began his first headship at the age of just 35 when he accepted the invitation to become Principal at St Paul's Grammar School in Penrith (Sydney, Australia), commencing in January 1989. Stephen served at St Paul’s for eight years before he moved to New Zealand to take on the newly established role of Chief Executive at Kristin School in Auckland, New Zealand. Stephen returned to Australia three years later in January 2000 to serve as Headmaster at Prince Alfred College, one of the two grand, old, well-established boys’ schools in Adelaide (Australia). He worked in that role for five years before moving to Hong Kong to serve as Head of Li Po Chun United World College, a fully residential international school with students from over 80 countries where Stephen worked for seven years (from 2004 to 2011).

Some would argue that Stephen’s career as a Head of Schools reached its peak when he accepted the position as Head of The Awty International School in Houston, Texas, a complex school with more than 1500 students from about 60 countries, aged 3 to 18. With two sections, three schools and dual strands leading to the International Baccalaureate (IB) and the French Baccalauréat, Awty became both the largest international school campus in the US and the largest independent school in Houston during the period of Stephen’s leadership.

Details of Stephen’s achievements as an educational leader can be seen by clicking on the school logos to the right.  Summaries of these popups appear on his LinkedIn profile here.

Throughout his time as a Head of School, Stephen chose to continue working as a classroom teacher of Geography and Theory of Knowledge, thus establishing a reputation for having a detailed working knowledge of classroom teachers’ everyday needs, excellent relationships with students, an up-to-date understanding of curriculum and a deep appreciation of the diversity within international education. In each of the schools where he has worked, Stephen was thus instrumental in implementing effective, positive - and often difficult - reforms as a change manager.

Stephen has a passionate interest in the geography, politics and culture of China. This interest has been expressed through his research and writings, and through some 80 visits there since 1982. From 1993 to 1995 he successfully negotiated to establish the first school in China since 1949 permitted to teach secondary students a course other than the government's national curriculum. This co-operative venture school (The Light of the World International School in Harbin) opened in March 1996, but sadly closed several years later. His interest in China continues, and in 2012 he established a sister school relationship between The Awty International School in Houston and Datong High School in Shanghai, having previously established successful ongoing sister school relationships between Datong and both St Paul’s Grammar School and Prince Alfred College during his headships.

Stephen has worked intensively in the area of best practice and change management in schools, and he has spoken widely on aspects of the subject in venues as diverse as Taipei, Geneva, Shanghai, Paris, Kampala, Freiburg, Washington DC, Adelaide, Bangkok and Invercargill.

Stephen has a strong commitment to excellence, cross-cultural understanding and internationalism in education. Echoing Aristotle, he believes “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit”. In all his work with schools, Stephen has followed the inspiration of Nelson Mandela who said “History will judge us by the difference we make in the everyday lives of children...  Let us all resolve to put children at the centre of all we do. They must be the motivation for every decision we make. Because they are our future.”

When working in Hong Kong, Stephen established GCAT (the Global Concerns Action Team) in which he worked shoulder-to-shoulder with students to engage in many cutting edge service activities such as building the first toilets in a remote lepers’ village in the Himalayas and building three medical clinics in poor rural areas of Guizhou province, China. He believes that students should be encouraged to stretch themselves beyond their comfort zones in every area of their formation, and to go forth into the world as responsible, ethical and compassionate young men and women, committed to putting into practice the ideals of peace, internationalism, justice and excellence in all things.

An Australian by birth, Stephen was born on 27th July - the same date that is celebrated with fireworks and dancing every year in North Korea to mark signing of the Armistice to end the Korean War. The photo to the right shows him at a memorial to that great event (the armistice, not his birth!).

He is married to Dianne, and he has the best four children that any father could ever hope for! He is also a proud grandfather ten times over, an extraordinary achievement for someone who feels so young.

Dr Stephen Codrington

B.A. (Hons), Dip.Ed., Ph.D.

F.A.C.E., F.G.S.N., F.N.G.T.A., F.R.G.S.

Educator • Consultant • Geographer • Author


“As for me, I am tormented with an everlasting itch for things remote. I love to sail forbidden seas, and land on barbarous coasts.”                   - Herman Melville, ‘Moby Dick’

I am a geographer and I love to travel to experience new places, new cultures, new ideas, new environments and new foods.  I really enjoy understanding our world more deeply through first-hand experiences.  On this page, I have recorded a few of my travel diaries to share with you.