Sussex head teachers on how their schools are equipping the next generation

PUBLISHED: 16:30 01 February 2017 | UPDATED: 14:45 02 February 2017

Getty Images/iStockphoto

Getty Images/iStockphoto

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As a new year dawns, we catch up with some of the county’s top educators to find out how they’re equipping the next generation for life beyond the school gates

Richard Brown, Handcross Park

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What makes your school unique?

Handcross Park benefits from being part of the Brighton College Family of Schools – we can share best practice and learn from one another. I feel that the school is kind, ambitious, challenging and progressive.

What qualities does a good teacher need to possess?

An excellent teacher must be passionate about their subject, respond and adapt to those that they teach, have excellent subject knowledge and relate to the pupils as individual learners.

What subject did you teach before you became a headteacher and what attracted you to it?

After taking both a BA (Hons) and an MA in English Literature, as well as spending six years in the army, I decided to follow a career in teaching. At Handcross Park, I try to venture into the classroom as much as possible.

What qualities would you like to feel your alumni take with them into the working world?

At Handcross Park, we follow a Personal Learning and Thinking Skills programme for the pupils that includes collaboration, teamwork, using initiative, taking responsibility, communication and resilience. These skills are invaluable for their future success alongside a love of learning.


Peter Goodyer, Bede’s

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What is your school motto and why is it important to staff and students? If you don’t have a motto, is there an ideology the school tries to instil?

Bede’s is underpinned by a holistic educational philosophy. This means that we give equal priority to academic lessons, co-curricular activities and pastoral care. In doing so, we enable every boy and girl to develop as a rounded individual.

How important are extracurricular activities to pupils’ development?

Each child at Bede’s is empowered to pursue passions personal to them both in and outside of the classrooms, selecting from a wide array of academic courses and a list of more than 120 activities each week, all the while guided by passionate personal tutors.

What qualities would you like to feel your alumni take with them into the working world?

Whatever the case, every individual is encouraged to see their time with us as a journey of discovery from which they emerge as happy, confident, capable adults.

How do you ensure the school maintains links with the local community?

Pupils at Bede’s volunteer at local schools and hospitals and are actively engaged with a number of local charities for which they fundraise on a regular basis.


Antonia Beary, Mayfield

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What makes your school unique?

Rounded and grounded girls who are encouraged to be creative in all they do: they learn to be themselves and make the most of their talents while recognising and celebrating the achievements of their peers.

What qualities does a good teacher need?

Good teachers need to be passionate about the subject they are teaching as well as being expert in their field. We expect staff to be aspirational for their pupils: the more that you believe in young people the more they can achieve.

How important are extracurricular activities to pupils’ development?

Education is about so much more than just what you learn in the classroom. Extra-curricular activities help give a balanced perspective to life and are crucial for learning about yourself and other people.

With cuts in public funding to the arts, how important are theatre, visual art and music to a rounded education?

To be a good scientist or mathematician, you need to be creative. If pupils are not studying art, drama and music at school, where will our future engineers, architects and researchers come from? 


Richard Taylor-West, Shoreham College

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What is unique about your school?

We have a connection with the past but we are not about elites: we aim to help pupils of a variety of starting points reach their potential, preparing them to be confident in the world today.

Was there a book that inspired you during your schooldays?

Lord of the Flies by William Goiding has always stayed with me. There is something utterly gripping about what happens on the island and it reminds us how chaos, and what some might call evil, are sadly always only a fag paper away.

What is your school motto and why is it important to staff and students?

We encourage our pupils to have a sense of urgency and purpose. The school motto is Deus Horam Dat: God gives the hour.

Was there a teacher who inspired you, and why?

My English teacher, John Callan, taught me that becoming better at a craft like reading and writing could be fun and enjoyable but at the same time it required discipline and rigour. 


John Franklin, Christ’s Hospital

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What makes your school unique?

The Tudor uniform is worn with great pride by our pupils. But what really sets the school apart is the fact that almost 80 per cent of our pupils come from needy backgrounds and are able to enjoy a first class boarding experience as part of our charitable mission.

What is your school motto and why is it important to staff and students?

A School Like No Other: school fees at Christ’s Hospital are assessed according to family income so it is a child’s ability and potential to benefit from a Christ’s Hospital education that determines their selection.

How do you ensure the school maintains links with the local community?

Christ’s Hospital shares its sports facilities, its magnificent galleried theatre and its music facilities with local children and their schools. Pupils go out into the community each week to work with nursery schools, primary schools, hospices, care homes and other charities.

Was there a book that inspired you during your schooldays, and what did you take away from it?

In my final year at school in Australia, I read R. L. Delderfield’s To Serve Them All My Days and it was at this point that I realised that my future lay in teaching.


Richard Evans, Great Ballard Prep School

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What makes your school unique?

Being one of the smaller prep schools in the area is a significant strength, and is a major reason why parents choose to send their children to us.

We know, understand and proactively support every single child, academically and pastorally.

What qualities does a good teacher need to possess?

A good teacher must also be able to motivate, support and be passionate about their subject. Teachers who really care will leave a lasting impression on the children, which can play a significant role in determining the type of person they will become in adult life.

How important are extracurricular activities to pupils’ development?

Every talent must be recognised and pursued and not every talent is academic. The experiences children have and the opportunities they grasp as they go through school really do develop character, and this is something we take very seriously at Great Ballard and in which we excel.

How important are parents in the character of a school?

The most successful education is achieved where there is open communication between parents, the child and the school, with all parties heading in the same direction.


Matt Thomas, Dorset House

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What makes your school unique?

Dorset House is about nurturing the whole child. We are a small school and we get to know the children extremely well throughout their time here. We focus on and develop personal strengths and also give further attention to areas which need it – we are ambitious for the children, not their parents!

How important is learning at home?

The children do their prep (homework) at school during the week and we often have taught preps. It is very important, however, that children read for pleasure at home, keep their maths ticking along with tables/mental arithmetic, practise their musical instruments and touch-typing.

What qualities would you like to feel your alumni take with them into the working world?

Amongst other qualities, we actively promote self-reliance, emotional intelligence and resilience.

What subject did you teach before you became a headteacher and what attracted you to it?

I have taught quite a range of subjects throughout my career, including PE, business studies, economics, religious studies and geography (to A Level). I particularly enjoy physical geography, it combines my love for the outdoors and the solving of mysteries using academic theory.


Dominic Oliver, Lancing College

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How important are extracurricular activities to pupils’ development?

Vital. Terminology matters because in fact it is not the extra but the co-curriculum here that is inherent in underscoring that Lancing’s education is of the whole person, not just the mind.

What subject did you teach before you became a headteacher and what attracted you to it?

English was – is! – my subject. Its reach into every sphere, the power to unlock previously unseen vistas, the centrality of the need to share, explore and discuss the provocative and the uplifting meant that its allure was irresistible.

How important are parents in the character of a school?

Harmonious working with parents is essential. Sorry to state the obvious, but there would be no pupils without them. Parents are always welcome here and their views and energies are an essential part of successful care for Lancing’s young people.

What qualities would you like to feel your alumni take with them into the working world?

They leave competitive, resilient and ready to take on the world. We are particularly proud that their determination is accompanied by a sense of the ethical: Lancing’s pupils leave wanting to do right in the world.


Tom Lawson, Eastbourne College

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Was there a teacher who inspired you, and why?

Poppy Anderson’s ability to bring literature to life was quite extraordinary. With the Head, her husband, she encouraged me to be thoughtful and ambitious.

What subject did you teach before you became a headteacher and what attracted you to it?

I have taught economics and humanities for the past 18 years. I love equipping young people to look at the world with an analytical eye and to challenge conventional thought. Debate is great.

How important are parents in the character of a school? How much do you try to involve them?

Parents are part of the lifeblood of the school. Parents, siblings, friends and neighbours often have college stories in their background and we encourage the involvement of our extended Eastbourne family.

How do you ensure the school maintains links with the local community?

Through the Eastbourne Schools Partnership we work closely with local schools for young people across the community. Located at the heart of the cultural quarter of Eastbourne, we welcome public engagement and being a school for the town.


Richard Cairns, Brighton College

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Was there a book that inspired you during your schooldays, and what did you take away from it?

As a boy aged 10 or 11, I loved the historical fiction of Ronald Welch. I was delighted to discover that his books have recently been reprinted and I tried them out recently on current pupils. They loved them too – particularly the boys. We need more publishers to engage with boys in particular, to nurture their reading habits.

What qualities does a good teacher need to possess?

We insist on teachers having the very strongest educational backgrounds but place equal emphasis on their ability to connect and inspire.

What subject did you find most difficult at school and how did you overcome your difficulties?

I found history the most difficult which is why I enjoyed it the most. In my experience, children are easily bored by something that they find too easy. The art is to challenge them with complicated, challenging puzzles.

What is your school motto and why is it important to staff and students? If you don’t have a motto, is there an ideology the school tries to instil?

It translates to Let Right Prevail: essentially always do the right thing. 


Jeff Smith, Greenfields School

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What is your school motto and why is it important to staff and students? If you don’t have a motto, is there an ideology the school tries to instil?

To arm students with essential knowledge and skills for living, and in particular the ability and confidence to study, understand and apply any subject whatsoever.

What subject did you teach before you became a head teacher and what attracted you to it?

I still teach physics. Aside from my teaching experience I am also a qualified professional engineer.

How important are parents in the character of a school? How much do you try to involve them?

The parents are our clients. They are extremely important to us and we have a strong interest in what they have to say. In addition, we have a very active Parent Teachers Association.

What qualities would you like to feel your alumni take with them into the working world?

Confidence and competence. Our alumni are international – from many different cultural and religious backgrounds. The way we teach and the life skills that we impart to our students bring about a profound acceptance and tolerance of others.


Will Brooks, Brambletye

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What makes your school unique?

Brambletye’s culture makes it so special. A combination of the children’s energy and their relationship with the staff, the fabulous facilities set within beautiful grounds and the evidence of talent being nurtured in so many disciplines.

How important are parents in the character of a school? How much do you try to involve them?

We believe in a collaborative approach to the children’s learning and parental insight is invaluable. We also love to beat the parents in the Staff v Parents sports fixtures and enjoy hosting our parents at year group dinners and other social events.

What qualities does a good teacher need to possess?

Passion, empathy, and wit.

What qualities would you like to feel your alumni take with them into the working world?

We teach our pupils to think creatively, enabling them to adapt to any challenge or opportunity they face in the future. Our alumni grow into self-assured and positive people who will give anything a go. 


David Clark, Battle Abbey School

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What makes your school unique?

Battle Abbey School is located within the walls of the medieval monastery built on the site of the infamous Battle of Hastings. How many schools in the world can say that they are part of 950 years of history?

Was there a book that inspired you during your schooldays, and what did you take away from it?

There were many history books that inspired me throughout my education. At Prep School I loved anything by R.J. Unstead and I still have Emerging Empire which I won on Speech Day 1975!

What subject did you find most difficult at school and how did you overcome your difficulties?

I always struggled with maths. At O Level I had a genius of a maths teacher but I couldn’t understand a word he said. I ended up being taught by my good friend Andy Meyer who proved to be a very gifted tutor.


How important is learning at home?

Home learning is critical. We learn online, we learn in discussions over the dinner table, we learn by watching good documentaries and we learn by reading before going to bed.


Nick Goodman, Frewen College

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What makes the college unique?

There are very few schools specialising in dyslexia. Frewen College can trace its history back to 1910, which makes it one of the oldest dyslexia schools in the world. Plus, it is set in a beautiful country estate with a deer park and beautiful Jacobean buildings. But what makes it really special for me is the opportunity it provides for children who have struggled in mainstream schools to get the support they need to really start to make progress.

What is your school ethos?

At Frewen College, relationships are really important – students have a tolerant, understanding, inclusive approach, which is wonderful. The curriculum is a balance of the academic and the creative – and the arts are an area where many of our pupils excel.

Was there a book that inspired you during your schooldays, and what did you take away from it?

The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien – imagination, magic and poetry are really important.

What qualities does a good teacher need to possess?

Patience, creativity, versatility and the ability to inspire.

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