Page 20 - Independent Schools Magazine
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Born: 1970 Married? To Karen, with two
sons, Sam (17) and Josh (14)
Schools and University Attended:
British School of Brussels (BSB), then University of Exeter, before completing a Masters Degree with the Open University
First job: In 1986, I was asked to run the Summer Coaching Programme at the British School of Brussels
First management job:
Deputy Head at Witham Hall School, from 1999
First job in education:
Master i/c Boys’ Games at Broadwater Manor School
Appointed to current job: 2013
Favourite piece of music:
Pachelbel’s Canon – so important, it featured at our wedding
Favourite food:
Thai food, the spicier the better
Favourite drink:
Having grown up in Belgium, would have to be a Belgian lager
Favourite holiday destination:
The Greek island of Crete – we love the White Mountains, near Chania
Favourite leisure pastime:
Sport, playing cricket or tennis in particular
Favourite TV or radio programme/series: I love Sport and Comedy, either Blackadder or the brilliant Morecambe and Wise. The Andre Previn sketch remains my favourite comedy moment
Suggested epitaph:
It seemed like a good idea at the time!
Pro le In conversation with Ian Thorpe
Q Who or what inspired you to practice that goes on in classrooms, yet it is so
become a teacher? Do you still teach?
A My father was a research chemist, so teaching doesn’t run through
my family. I thoroughly enjoyed my schooling in Belgium, getting involved in sports coaching at the age of 16. At that time, I really wanted to be involved in sports journalism
or recreation management, but perhaps it
was written in the stars that I found my way into teaching? I’ve certainly never regretted doing so and as a Head I keep connected with the classroom and feed my love of teaching through my Y6 French lessons. There is nothing like standing in front of a group of children and thinking about what they could become, and how I can inspire them and help them along that journey. It’s priceless!
Q You have spent your career in independent preparatory schools.
What has kept you focused on that age group? Have you considered senior school
Awork?
and opportunities more commonly associated with senior education – the best of both worlds, really! I’ve been very fortunate to work in some great, yet varied Prep schools: day and boarding, 13+ and 11+, co-ed and single-sex, stand-alone and through-school. This has kept me fresh
and challenged throughout and I love to learn,
as much as my students do. I still love the 13+ model, where 12 and 13 year olds can enjoy being the leaders of their schools at such an important time of their lives.
Q Your senior staff regularly observe lessons to identify best practice
and offer guidance where needed, a system which has contributed to the excellent academic results for which Downsend is well known throughout Surrey. Is this a feature which you would recommend to your fellow- heads, and are there any tips you could offer to Athose thinking of following your lead?
Schools can have the best facilities in the world but, without great teaching, they will not impact positively
on pupil outcomes. There is so much brilliant
The Prep school model is a fantastic system. We have the pastoral care of small junior schools, yet the facilities
The trick is to prepare gradually and over time, thus allowing pupils and parents the space to adapt. Our Pre-
Prep pupils have weekly swimming lessons in our indoor 25-metre pool, and we run a free Saturday Morning games Club for pupils from all our 3 Pre-Preps. Here they receive high quality sports coaching and become comfortable with the larger school environment at the same time. Parents can mingle over a coffee and become familiar with us too. We do hold a speci c familiarisation Open Morning for parents and children in Rising Reception and in Year 1, we start the formal process of transition, with children and parents being invited up for speci c sessions. By the time September comes around, this means there are no surprises when their children move up into Year
2 and our families are ready to make the most of Qthe fantastic opportunities we have available.
You are a believer in ‘creative learning’ What do you mean by this, and how does it impact in the
classroom?
A For some time now, we as educationalists have known that the
tighter the links between disparate curriculum areas, the more likely we are to foster the transferable skills that will be required in adult life. For example, where does graph work sit? In Maths, Science or Geography? What about analysing source material? Is that English
rarely shared. Our learning walks and drop-in observations allow us to do this and we have rich, productive and constructive conversations as a result with our colleagues when discussing their performance and aspirations. After an initial reluctance, most learners, whether they are 9 or 49, welcome quality, effective feedback, and our teachers value this too, so that they can learn to be outstanding teachers. Improve the quality of feedback, whether via pupil reports or Qperformance review, and you won’t go wrong!
Downsend is unusual in having three pre-prep departments on three separate sites to the prep school.
This must provide the younger pupils with a small-community start to their journey through the years to 13, and give them an early taste
of ‘moving up’. How do you prepare your older children pastorally for the move up to senior Aschool?
20 Independent Schools Magazine
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