Page 21 - Independent Schools Magazine
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Tom Dawson has been head of Sunningdale School, Berkshire, since 2005. He previously taught Modern Languages at Harrow School.
potential pitfalls. They learn about this in IT and we regularly invite in an expert to talk to boys, parents and staff.
The theory is that they should not have social media accounts before they are 13 but we know that many of them do. We also know that, once they leave us, they will have almost unlimited access to technology. As a prep school, it is a huge part of our role to prepare them for the next stage.
Q Are you integrating much technology into the classroom? Is it
all useful educationally, or is it too often an attempt to ‘keep up’ thereby appearing to be on-the-ball?
A Sunningdale has never been a school that just follows the crowd. Over the years we have constantly
assessed our IT provision, both as a speci c subject and as a tool for use across the board. We have sets of tablets and chromebooks which we use in lessons and we were the  rst school in Europe to introduce chromebooks. Our position is to use technology when it adds something to the teaching, not simply because we feel we have to.
Q How do you keep track of what really goes on in the classroom without
setting parental alarm bells ringing
– in other words how do you  nd out where standards are lower than you would like before it becomes a results-issue? Are you a fan of pupil- assessment of teachers?
trips are also a fantastic part of the boarding experience. I honestly don’t know if this had had an effect on their subject choices at senior school but I do know that their French results here are very good indeed.
consider it a tough call to run small prep schools at a surplus whilst maintaining educational and pastoral standards, how do you manage it?
We monitor the teaching and learning very closely indeed. We have a programme of regular lesson
Your current boarding fees are in line with national average at £7,800 a term. Given that bursars widely
observation by Heads of Department and by the Director of Studies. I also go into lessons to see what is going on. We also operate a robust appraisal system of all teachers.
I do not think that there needs to be a formal appraisal of teachers by pupils. We encourage our boys to be open with us and I am pretty sure they would tell me if there was a problem and I hope I would already know about it anyway.
Q The school owns a restored manor house in Normandy [pictured below
right], and pupils go out for a week at a time and the aim is to bring the language
they learn in the classroom to life. Has this initiative resulted in greater enthusiasm to take French further in senior school?
We manage it with careful planning and by focusing on what is important. We are careful not to
waste money but we do make sure that we are able to provide an excellent quality of education combined with incredibly high standards of pastoral care.
it does wonders for their French. The ‘La Vac’
La Vacquerie, our house in France, has been the most wonderful asset. The boys love going there and
Independent Schools Magazine 21

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