From chart-topping ex-pupils to psychology podcasts, we get to know Matthew Bryan, Headmaster at Longacre School

What makes Longacre school special?

It’s a combination of the people and the ethos. The children are so lucky to come here, but equally it’s they who make it such a great school. They’re kind to each other and particularly take pride in looking after younger children, which has created a self-perpetuating virtuous circle. Teachers and parents buy into a school which centres itself around the mission to ensure that everyone is happy. Markers of success are products of that happiness, rather than being goals in their own right.

What is your favourite part of your job?

The job is always about children, especially the transformational power to allow children to achieve more than they thought possible. That series of expressions, from disbelief and wonder to delight and pride, is unbeatable. Working with incredibly talented colleagues and getting lovely feedback from grateful parents come close second!

What inspired you to work in education?

I came into it by accident – I signed up for teacher training at university because I wasn’t ready to leave yet, and that turned out to be good fun. I then went for a job interview to get some practice. When they offered me the job I didn’t know what to do, so I figured that I’d stay in teaching as long as it stayed fun. That was 22 years ago now…

Can you share any career highlights?

I keep every thank you note from pupils and parents: they’re useful on the more difficult days! Teaching is the best job in the world, the times you feel you made a real difference – comforting, encouraging, role-modelling – are the highlights. I fondly recall the Upper Sixth form student who got 100% in A level Latin and went on to be the lead singer of a chart-topping band, but I’m not altogether sure how crucial the Latin was to his success…

What about your own school days?

It was pretty traditional! I have lots of memories, good and bad, which heavily influence the way I try to lead my school. I was incredibly privileged to have the most wonderful time at prep school – making great friends, learning from inspiring teachers, building a sense of self-identity, confidence and the value of having fun at school.

What do you enjoy doing outside of work?

Family time is hugely important – we enjoy a dog walk that ends in a pub lunch. I enjoy endurance sports (in my case, plodding around on foot or bike) and am in training to ride the King Alfred’s Way. I wouldn’t always call it enjoyable, but I probably spend too much time and energy following Tottenham Hotspur!

Tell us your favourite book or author.

Any kind of swashbuckling historical fiction – Dumas’ The Count of Monte Cristo is an epic revenge story. As a child, the book I reread most was The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar by Roald Dahl. Rightly or wrongly, most of my reading is non-fiction, often on psychology. I particularly love Malcolm Gladwell’s books (and podcasts); The Tipping Point is a life-changing read! Thinking about it, these all refer to the depth of potential power that lies within ordinary people.

What are you excited for in 2023?

Adventures! My family has a new tent and I can’t wait to use it to explore.

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