We chat to Mike Piercy, Headmaster of The New Beacon boys’ school in Sevenoaks
Why did you choose a career in teaching? It is more a question of teaching choosing me! My father was in the navy in WWII and it was a career which attracted me but, being short sighted and limited in scientific brain cells, that opportunity was not open. After A Levels I worked as a gap year student in a school while I pondered my future. I realised teaching was the career for me and have never looked back.
What was your favourite subject at school? I must confess to not having been the most ardent student – which I have come to realise may have given me a genuine empathy with children who find academic work less appealing! It has to be English (which was eventually) my degree coupled with drama and theatre.
Can you tell us about an inspirational teacher from your school days? Without doubt it was Mr. Smithers, my maths teacher. No-one else could have got me an A Level! He was a great communicator, had time for everyone and was, above all, kind.
Have your own school days influenced the way you approach your role as headteacher? We all remember certain teachers who were powerful, formative influences in our lives. I remember Mr. Smithers for the reasons already given; my history teacher for his passion and story-telling; my music teacher for his patience; my Headmaster for his wisdom. Yes, they and therefore my schooldays have influenced me as a Head.
What’s been your proudest achievement so far? Gosh – I’m not sure I could highlight one single achievement. A collective achievement however might be helping those many, many children over the years who struggled with reading, writing, learning, complying, or simply being in school, to overcome their challenges and emerge stronger.
How are you dealing with the challenges that Coronavirus has thrown at you so far? On a day by day basis! We have been most conscious of community – above all, our boys’ wellbeing – and have tried to adapt where needed. A recent example: we have ‘moved’ the last week of the Spring Term onto the first week of the Summer Term – to cut short the challenges of home learning through dark winter days hoping for lighter, brighter days ahead in April when we feel more children are likely to be back in school.
If you could teach anyone – either present day or from history – who would you choose? An interesting concept: choosing someone whose future one might have shaped in some way or simply knowing that person in childhood? Drawing on some New Beacon history it would have been fascinating to know the young Siegfried Sassoon and his two brothers, Hamo and the lesser known Michael.
What do you think makes New Beacon special? It was a joy to have a full school last autumn. Life, energy, noise and laughter returned. Yet many visitors comment on our calm, measured learning environment. I think we effectively accomplish that balance of achievement and purpose alongside a happy, caring ethos where kindness abounds – we all perform better when we are happy!
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