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Thomas Garnier has been Headmaster of Pangbourne College, Berkshire, since 2005. He previously taught Physics and served as a housemaster at Abingdon School, Oxfordshire.
A I enjoyed boarding, for the most include these in offers and at a time when more A I love anything to do with boats and
part, and I can see how it gave me
con dence and access to a wealth of opportunity. It was not always easy and years 9 and 10 (to use modern nomenclature) at Radley were pretty tough – as indeed they were at most schools at the time – but my memories are mainly positive. My father was in the Royal Navy and was away from home a lot anyway so I don’t feel I missed out by not being at home every day; we were able to have plenty of family time during the holidays and I have a very good relationship with my parents. I think they would say that they just did what their contemporaries did at the
time – believe it or not, it seemed normal to send us away aged 8! Ultimately, one size never  ts all and I think it is up to parents to make the decision about boarding which is right for their child. When it came to my own sons, both of whom are now at Pangbourne, neither of them showed an inclination to board, and I think they have the best of both worlds in being able to stay at school with their friends until late and then sleep in their own beds, since we live on site. If they had wanted to, Qhowever, I would have been happy to consider it.
Pangbourne offers the A-level at sixth form. The accuracy, or rather inaccuracy, of exam marking and
the whole issue of re-grades has damaged the reputation of GCSEs and A-levels amongst parents, pupils, and employers, leave alone teaching staff. Have you noticed increasing momentum towards the IB or other sixth form Aoptions? Are you considering any?
Perhaps we have been fortunate, but with some minor exceptions we have not been affected by the marking
issues which have understandably affected schools’ con dence in the exam system. Our results in recent years have been pleasing, the overwhelming majority of our students obtaining places at their preferred universities. Like most schools we regularly review our curriculum to ensure we can meet the needs of our pupils
most effectively. We used to offer the IB but
our small size made it uneconomic, and we are presently committed to delivering a high-quality A-level programme. The new speci cations are undoubtedly more challenging and we have introduced a small number of BTEC courses to cater for some of our more practically-minded students – universities have shown willingness to
students are likely to consider apprenticeships rather than traditional university courses, this seemed a sensible step to take.
from overseas? If it is, what steps can be taken to
attractive educational pathway for overseas students and indeed for teachers who want to develop their careers. At the present time, the weakness of the pound is certainly helping to keep student numbers up but, as for many other areas, it is dif cult to give a de nitive answer because so much about Brexit is up in the air. At the moment, we have seen no change in the enquiry rate from QEuropean students seeking boarding places.
Pangbourne is well known for developing leadership skills and character through outdoor activities,
the CCF, and the DofE Awards. How have you amended or added to those programmes to address the increasing incidence of mental health Aissues amongst young people in the UK today?
Being able to take part in a wide range of outdoor activities is undoubtedly helpful in building resilience and
helping young people to stay healthy. We are all aware of the apparent link between excessive use of electronic devices or social media and mental ill-health and we continue to work with our students to support them better in this area. The introduction of Digital Champions, students who will promote positive behaviours and who will educate us about what is happening in their digital space, is one new initiative. Two years ago, the main theme of our PSHCE programme was ‘Emotional Well-being’ and we are just about to begin a trial of AS Tracking, a product which helps to monitor and develop mental resilience and about which other schools have spoken warmly.
have gained a huge amount from
involvement in both rowing and sailing, although the latter is purely recreational. Coaching rowing gives me great satisfaction and recently I have returned to the water as a sculler – the Pangbourne stretch of the Thames is incredibly beautiful. Improvement is slow
and requires both effort and concentration. The same is true in music, another pastime which is very important to me and indeed my family, and one of the privileges of being able to share my love of these things with young people is to see the growth in their character as they persevere
Is Brexit going to present a problem of teacher recruitment and make the UK less attractive to boarding pupils
Potentially, but the quality of the UK boarding sector is very high and my feeling is that it still offers an
College. What have those pastimes added to your life?
You are keen on rowing and sailing, sports much in evidence on the River Thames just down the hill from the
Teaching? Are you encouraging your staff to
oin? jA
n learning new skills.
Staying with the theme of national organisations, what is your view on the new Chartered College of
I must confess that I have more fact- nding to do before I could express a meaningful view but I
think the idea of being able to work towards chartered status for teaching has merit. If one of my staff requested to take part in the pilot for the chartered teacher programme, I would be Qsupportive.
Who, or what, inspired you to get into teaching? Do you still teach?
I was fortunate at both Sandroyd and Radley to have some exceptional and inspirational
teachers who were not just experts in their subject area but who also took an interest in
my wider development. As a student I had
some experience of helping on activity camps for teenagers and loved it. My  rst career was as a naval of cer and when I was considering leaving (for love!), teaching seemed an obvious path to investigate. I signed up for a PGCE at Oxford and have never looked back – being a teacher is the best job in the world. I have found it dif cult to combine being Headmaster of a small school with teaching; I have taught two sets but although I enjoyed being back in the classroom greatly, I think I was less effective in my main role. I am strongly attracted by the idea of returning to full-time teaching at some point in the future.
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