We chat to James Thomas, the new headmaster of Sutton Valence School near Maidstone, Kent

What was your favourite subject at school? I chose A Levels in Italian, Music and Religious Studies which struck a great balance and appealed to my interests. I was very lucky to have wonderful teachers who inspired me to love my studies. I went on to read Theology at university as I found it a fascinating, relevant and diverse subject. 

Can you tell us about one of your happiest school memories? I have lots of lovely memories from school. The happiest were probably big events where everybody worked together such as dramatic performances, concerts, sports fixtures, and chapel and cathedral services. There were also a number of fascinating lectures and academic societies that I used to enjoy.

Why did you choose teach? I always wanted to work in a profession which centred around relationships with others. It is such an honour to be able to make a contribution to a community and enable others to flourish. My mother and grandparents were also teachers so education is in my blood!

What were you doing before accepting the headmaster position at Sutton Valence? I am currently Head of the Secondary School at the British School in Tokyo, a school which holds very similar values to Sutton Valence. Working and living on the other side of the world has been a wonderful experience for me and my family, although I am very much looking forward to coming home. 

What made Sutton Valence so appealing to you? I admire the warm, supportive and open community at Sutton Valence; it is clear that people really care about the school and each other. The size is attractive since it is large enough to be diverse but also small enough for every individual to be treasured. The physical environment is stunning and inspirational too.

Have your own school days influenced the way you will approach your role as headmaster? Absolutely. Since my school days I have always believed that we should all contribute to the communities of which we are a part and that we should never take privilege for granted. Much like those who go to Sutton Valence, I was able to benefit from attending a great school which offered me a variety of amazing opportunities. 

What are you most looking forward to this coming year? I look forward to getting to know all of the many people who are part of the Sutton Valence community – students of all ages, staff, parents, governors, alumni and the many friends and partners of the school in the area. It is clearly a very special place and I cannot wait to be a part of it. 

What do you like doing in your spare time? I have three energetic and creative sons (aged 4, 7 and 9) who certainly keep me busy when I am not working. As a family, we enjoy spending time outdoors camping, travelling, reading and relaxing with our old, wise and ever faithful Labrador. 


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