It was deeply humbling to lead the start of term assembly as the 29th Headmaster of Bradford Grammar School (BGS). Now that I’ve survived my first full week I feel sufficiently confident to venture, for the first time in my life, into the world of blogging – so here goes…
The process of applying, or more accurately ‘thinking about applying’ for Headship, encouraged me for the first time in my teaching career to properly stop, think and reflect on my values and beliefs about education. As I reflected in assembly a few years ago, during a training seminar, a question was posed along the lines of ‘what do you stand for?’ or put another way ‘what principles do you model as a teacher?’
I and other teaching colleagues to whom the question had been directed looked blankly at one another, shuffled uneasily on our feet and tried hard not to catch the eye of the trainer who was eager for someone to volunteer an answer. Our students would have put us to shame!
The truth is that I entered teaching without grand ambition or plan. There was no intention to change the world, make a huge difference, or heaven forbid become a Headmaster. I did want to do something meaningful and something worthwhile. Teaching ticked all the right boxes. So a training day question about ‘values’ caught me out – it was an arresting experience and in truth I should have done better.
I now realise that guiding principles have always been there below the surface and having taken time to reflect it turns out that I have some strong beliefs about education which are now more obvious to me than before. Moreover, it appears that I share these with BGS and this is perhaps the main reason why I now find a picture of my face on the Senior School website and in our various school publications. Being the kind of person who usually hides at the sight of a camera or gallantly offers to take the photograph – I’m sure it will take some getting used to.
So, back to the training day question: What does the new Headmaster of BGS stand for?
I firmly consider that it is our job and our responsibility as teachers at BGS to encourage young people to act with courtesy, integrity and consideration, as well as motivating them to achieve the highest possible academic standards.
I genuinely believe in the power of an inspiring, well-rounded education to build character and change lives fundamentally for the better. If we get it right, and BGS does, education will kindle an intellectual and emotional response from pupils, encourage insight and curiosity and provide the tools and sense of fair play to make a valuable contribution to society and economy. It will enthuse and, in the end, equip young people with the flexibility, confidence, fortitude, developing maturity and a moral bedrock for whatever comes next in their young lives.
It will feed mind, body and spirit, will in turn be enjoyable for students and teachers alike and generate a great many happy memories so that our Old Bradfordians will feel a connection to their alma mater for the rest of their lives.
Preparing our young people for the world beyond the BGS gates is a genuinely exciting and worthy pursuit, fully deserving of the very best endeavors of every teacher, ably supported by our non-teaching colleagues. I tried my best to articulate and illustrate these values in assembly. I also wanted to convince the audience in the Price Hall that life is not a linear A to B plod – at least that’s my experience.
Some months before starting teacher training whilst working in remote mountains in Eastern Turkey, I had been mistaken for a member of the security forces and was shot at by separatists. That’s how the local police explained the shooting and bullet holes in my Government issued university car – only to be detained days later by the authorities on suspicion of being a mercenary, all whilst innocently studying rocks. To migrate from this experience to the classroom in a relatively short space of time was interesting. To my mind, life twists and takes you in unanticipated directions.
But as I said to our students, what you do at school in your formative years, with the support of teachers and family who care deeply, can help to develop the right positive frame of mind to make the most of any opportunities that come your way. There will be surprises, stumbles and successes as is the nature of life, but an education at BGS will equip you for this and encourage a positive disposition to make the most of what you’ve got – Carole Dweck and others characterise this as a growth mindset.
Personal and shared values matter. They influence us and how we approach the happenings of our lives, the expected and the unexpected (and at this point in the blog I’m trying hard not to hum a well-known Graham Nash song about ‘a code that you can live by’ so it’s probably time to conclude).
I am tremendously excited about the future of our terrific school and intend to do my very best on behalf of students, parents, staff and the community that we serve. It is now time to walk my talk and model the values and approach that I described in assembly. More succinctly, it’s time to get on with it, or to quote our motto ‘Hoc Age’.
“I genuinely believe in the power of an inspiring, well-rounded education to build character and change lives fundamentally for the better. If we get it right, and BGS does, education will kindle an intellectual and emotional response from pupils, encourage insight and curiosity and provide the tools and sense of fair play to make a valuable contribution to society and economy.
It will enthuse and, in the end, equip young people with the flexibility, confidence, fortitude, developing maturity and a moral bedrock for whatever comes next in their young lives.”