Monkton Combe School, just a mile from the World Heritage City of Bath, is an independent, co-educational boarding and day school. We pride ourselves on our lively Christian ethos, excellent exam results and our strong pastoral care. At Monkton we are setting standards for life - giving young people the qualities of character they need.
Head since 1st January, 2016
Who/what inspired you to become a teacher?
I used to help my older brother with his Maths when we were younger and, although I soon realised I wasn’t very good at Maths, I loved trying to find other ways of explaining something to someone to help them understand it.
While others wanted to be firemen or join the army, I am afraid my playground banter often resulted in bemused looks of uncertainty when I professed a desire to teach.
Of course it is really people who inspire us – everyone remembers one great teacher. For me it was Richard Martin, my Prep School housemaster, who really understood us all as individuals and Simon Taylor, my English teacher at Winchester, whose inspiration in Literature and on the stage still fires my lessons today.
What achievement are you most proud of as Head?
I’m only 7 weeks in but a standout aspect of life at Monkton is our truly exceptional pastoral care. In partnership with Dr Simon and Jo Walker, founders of Mind.World, we have been a pioneer school in a programme of tracking the development of pupils’ social and emotional self-regulation. Known as AS Tracking and grounded in cognitive science research, the programme uses the imagination to elicit patterns of thinking and behaviour. We then look at the data, by each individual pupil, and across groups, which allows us to see developing patterns of behaviour that could cause problems if not addressed.
It’s a proactive approach to looking after our pupils which uncovers problems before they are apparent. It takes the teacher’s ‘feeling that something isn’t quite right’ and makes it concrete, allowing us to create individual action plans for pupils to help them to develop a full palette of emotional skills - to become rounded, balanced, healthy people. We ran a great conference this term with Simon and Jo to promote our work together on this and I am really proud that we are able to be a part of promoting their ground breaking and transformative work.
What does a successful school look like to you?
One where each and every child is actively encouraged to take risks and try new things - be it singing in public, climbing into a canoe for the first time or tackling the Ten Tors. One of the many joys of a smaller school is that everyone gets the chance to shine at something.
Our expectation at Monkton is that pupils will be involved in at least four or five extra-curricular activities, which may well uncover a hidden talent or support an existing passion. Whatever it turns out to be, every child at Monkton leaves having done something that they love and that serves as the rock on which to build the rest of their lives with courage and confidence.
What is the most important quality you want every child to have when they leave your school? And why?
The flexibility to be able to thrive in a modern world. We live in a world that is more complex and diverse than it was ten years ago; it is much harder to predict. This means the children we are teaching now need to know what their skills are and need to be good at turning those skills to totally different tasks. The likelihood is that most of the jobs the kids of today will spend their lives contributing to don’t exist yet. What will be the ‘social media consultant’ of tomorrow? They will need sensitivity, self-awareness and the ability to lead in spades.
The next big move in education, in my view, will be a revolution in the way we prepare our young people for the world of work; in the Naughties (2000-2009) it was academic tracking, in the Teenies (2010-2019) it is pastoral care; in the 2020s I think we will be talking a lot about future skills preparation; it’s the next big shift in education and something that I want Monkton to lead on.
Please give 5 words to describe the ethos of your school.
Ambitious, innovative, inclusive, spiritual, open minded
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