Meet the Head of Eastbourne College
PUBLISHED: 16:03 16 July 2013 | UPDATED: 16:03 16 July 2013
Simon Davies is Head of Eastbourne College. He came late to teaching, having worked in the City until he was 30, and says it has been more fulfilling than he could have imagined
What’s the best thing about teaching?
My experience of school was not a very happy one (although I realised years later that I had learned all sorts of things about life during my turbulent teens). Working alongside young people is like perpetually gardening in those spring months when the world is bursting forth, days are getting longer and the glory of the summer lies ahead.
And what is the most challenging?
Of course there are tough times. But helping young people find their way through the troughs of life and learn to cope with grief, conflict and the consequences of poor decisions is immensely rewarding: you see them grow and their resilience build. Sometimes, sadly, you can’t make things right – and then there is a valuable role to be played in standing by and supporting them until the clouds part.
What makes your school different?
Some schools, what I call Chelsea Flower Show schools, seem to focus wholly on their results – academic, sport, anything that can be measured – rather than how they can best develop each individual during their time at school to set them up to live generous and fulfilled adult lives. Chelsea Flower Show schools are geared to put on displays of ephemeral glory – and it is not good for any of us to believe we are the best.
I call Eastbourne College a Wisley Garden school: we seek to provide the best possible microclimate for every child, surround them with skilled and committed adults – gardeners, I suppose – and give them lots and lots of time. They do very well academically along the way (87 per cent A*-B at A level last year, which is higher than lots of much more selective schools – the common entrance pass mark remains at 50 per cent) but what we are interested in is who they are. We want them to blossom and fruit year after year. We are also committed to a long-term relationship with them that extends far beyond school and makes them part of a worldwide community of the College’s extended family and friends: the Eastbournian Society.
You are obviously passionate about working with young people – what does it mean to you?
I was a late developer. It’s taught me two things. The first is that what schools, governments and the media measure and acclaim are not what will make a person succeed in real life – we all know people who were stars at school but have found life a disappointment and vice versa. The second is that determinedly supporting and challenging young people who you have taken the time to get to know can instill confidence and life skills that will transform their lives. That’s why I am passionate about working with young people and take joy in who they become rather than pride in what we’ve made them.