We’ve been finding out what makes the new Head of Cranbrook School, David Clark, tick

With his passion for travel, languages and an internationalist outlook, David Clark enjoys the dynamism of Cranbrook School’s thriving and diverse community

Tell us about your own experience of education.
I was born and brought up overseas and was therefore packed off to boarding school in the mid-1970s, which was an ‘interesting’ experience. My teachers identified some academic talent and I was therefore put into the fast stream which came as something of a surprise. Alas, like many of my contemporaries, I came up with a thousand reasons why I couldn’t focus on my studies and, instead, found time to pursue my many sporting passions. Needless to say, I got rather a shock when my O Level results were revealed, but that period of underperformance gave me the kick I needed and I achieved much better at A Level and beyond. From school, I went to study for a history degree at Exeter and played rugby and hockey for the university. My PGCE was taken at Cambridge and I returned four years later to complete my Master’s degree in Education Management where my research on boys’ underachievement was published.

What drew you towards Cranbrook?
I was drawn by its fine reputation, many achievements and broad grammar intake as well as by its wonderful location and tradition of education for character. Cranbrook’s dedicated staff and engaging students alongside a commitment to pastoral care, its enviable co-curricular provision and its special boarding dimension were also especially attractive. The School’s mission, motto and values and its aim to blend the traditions of the state and independent sectors successfully were equally compelling and its ethos was one that I wholeheartedly supported.

What is your vision for Cranbrook?
We have a collective vision to ensure that Cranbrook becomes celebrated nationally as the best state boarding school in the country – where students are inspired academically, where they embrace many new opportunities beyond the curriculum and where they develop impressive soft skills that will serve them well throughout their adult lives.

What are your thoughts on the holistic development of students?
Holistic education seeks to engage all aspects of the learner and this is fundamental to developing educational breadth in our students. In order to prepare Cranbrookians for their futures, we need to ensure that they have strong academic foundations but we must also widen their horizons beyond the classroom. Much valuable learning can be done in our societies, on school trips, on the sports pitch and in the orchestra or choir. Equally, we must remember to embrace lessons from those around us in the boarding house, in the common rooms or in the local community.

What are the biggest challenges that face schools today?
The phrase ‘we live in interesting times’ should be re-worded to say that we live in interesting and highly complex times and I can’t remember a period when schools faced more challenges. Teachers are presented with bigger bureaucratic burdens than ever and students are still struggling with the aftermath of Covid. Added to that, schools are caught up in the so-called culture wars and need to navigate their way through a range of emotive topics with care and sensitivity. Additionally, the world of education needs to better understand the new learning frontier provided by breakthroughs in AI and we need to embrace this particular challenge as the development of artificial intelligence is likely to dominate our lives in the coming years.

What advice would you give to the students of Cranbrook to excel academically, develop as individuals, and prepare for their future?
My best advice to Cranbrookians is to embody the school values of kindness, integrity, aspiration, curiosity and individualism. If students embed these guiding principles, I am confident that they can better prepare for their complex and uncertain futures and are more likely to make meaningful and significant contributions to the world around them.

What is your favourite book?
I go through phases with books but I am currently enjoying anything by William Boyd. Any Human Heart is a good example of his style which I enjoy as he often deals with broad historical themes and develops fascinating characters. Equally, I love discovering new children’s books for my young boys and books by Oliver Jeffers are particular favourites… and great fun.

You can find out more about Cranbrook School at cranbrookschool.co.uk

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