Page 20 - Independent Schools Magazine
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Born: 1974
Married? Wife: Elisabeth Children: Harry (11) and Florence (8)
Schools and University Attended: Sunningdale, Eton, Edinburgh University, Bristol University
First job: 1997 Harrow School
First management job:
Director of Studies, Sunningdale 2003
First job in education:
1997 Harrow School
Appointed to current job:
2005
Favourite piece of music:
Rhapsody in Blue, Gershwin Favourite food: Indian
Favourite drink:
A Gunner (lemonade, ginger ale, lime and Angostura Bitters), very golf club!
Favourite holiday destination:
Italy
Favourite leisure pastime:
Golf or skiing
Favourite TV or radio programme/series: The Archers (makes me sound very old!!)
Suggested epitaph:
‘He cared’ or, perhaps, ‘He had a good innings’.
Pro le In conversation with Tom Dawson
Q Sunningdale School was founded in son or daughter. Do you advocate returning to
1874, and had a variety of owners
untilyourfatheranduncleacquired it in 1967 and ran it for the next 38 years. When you took over the reins you would have brought a fresh approach of your own, but how did long
Over the last twelve years, much
has changed. We have updated things hugely and brought a modern
amily tradition in uence the pace of change?
Very few of our boys go on to day schools from here. Once they have seen how much fun they have in a
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approach to our teaching and our pastoral care. Having said that, our traditions remain very important to us: the core values of kindness, hard work and good manners still underpin everything we do.
Q Sunningdale serves around 110 boarding boys from age 7 - 13. It
has a ‘ exible-form’ system which allows pupils to move through the school at their own pace, avoiding any hot-housing or negative pressures. It is clearly a system which works as many of your pupils win places to competitive sAenior schools. How does it work in practice?
Boys move through Sunningdale
as they develop academically and not simply because of their age. This
means that those who  nd the work easier are constantly stretched and kept interested and those who  nd it more dif cult just move at a slightly slower pace. We discuss all the boys at the end
of each term and see if any particular boy would bene t from more challenging work.
The great advantage is that each boy’s education at Sunningdale is individually tailored to his needs. They receive huge amounts of support, whatever their academic level, and this attention to detail produces excellent results.
It has always seemed strange to me that a child’s birthday should have such a huge impact on their education. Our system allows us to be much more  exible and cater for the needs of the individual.
Q An important aspect of any Prep Head’s job is to help parents decide which senior school best suits their
day-school for some pupils, and, if so, what might ead you to suggest that?
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boarding environment, parents are reluctant to take that away from them. Boarding gives them more time to experience a huge range of activities and, not least, time to relax with their friends without having to have play dates organised for them. The friends they make remain friends for life and this is a pretty compelling reason for them to keep boarding.
Q The Daily Telegraph Good Schools’ Guide described Sunningdale as
“Relaxed, cheerful but also orderly and well mannered”. One of your own blogs
stressed the importance of courtesy and good manners. How do you impart these attributes to your pupils in an always-connected world so full of self-obsession, without appearing stuffy or oAld-fashioned?
Expectations. We are clear about what we expect from the boys and we promote good manners and good
behaviour. Boys also need to learn to get on with one another and kindness and courtesy are an essential part of that. I also feel that leading by example is incredibly important. As Headmaster,
I take a very active role every day. I teach, I coach games and I make sure I spend time with the boys. I make sure that I always treat them with kindness and respect and I expect them to do the same.
Q On the subject of social-media, you make a point of educating boys,
parents and staff on how to use social media responsibly and collaboratively. What are tAhe key points of that aspect of education?
Although we do not allow boys to bring mobile phones or a tablet to school, we are very aware that they
all have access to social media at home. We have a huge responsibility to educate them on the
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