Gareth Doodes MA Hons Headmaster of Dover College

Favourite subject when you were at school

I absolutely love History. My imagination as a child was vivid, and I had an exceptional teacher who made history something interesting and something relevant. A love of History in itself developed a fascination with theology and politics. It demonstrated how all we learn is so inter-related.

Favourite teacher when you were at school

Mr Polden, my English teacher. Debonair, witty, with a rich Irish brogue, he read poetry to us that made our ears feel like we were eating fudge. He made Shakespeare come alive, laughed incessantly, was eccentric in the right ways and clearly cared. Quite a character.

Favourite children’s character from a book or film

It would have to be Mole, from Wind in the Willows. He’s modest, humble and thoughtful. He tries new things, and is ambitious, yet at the same time doesn’t forget his own roots. It is the best character from a perfect book although ironically, it has greater relevance when read by adults than by children.

Best school memory

Too many to choose from! Probably the day I was appointed Head Boy at Prep School. Nothing has ever surpassed that, both in terms of the feeling of being honoured, and also excited. Seeing my parents’ beaming faces that day is a memory that will never leave me.

Is there anything you wish you had studied at school that you didn’t?

I would love to have done further study in Theology and Philosophy. I love thinking, and love stretching my mind. There’s always a place for that in what we do.

What is your proudest achievement at your current school?

Our recent ISI Inspection, which turned the school completely around from the situation I inherited. There is nothing better than being tested by external agencies in what you believe is right, and found to be without fault. It’s a magnificent achievement by a superb team of teachers at the College.

What are you looking forward to this coming year?

We’re about to embark on an exciting development plan, with investment in teaching, learning, buildings and facilities both for the Junior and the Senior School, and sport. It’s an exciting time for the College and its pupils.

Ian Thorpe Headmaster of Downsend School

Favourite subject when you were at school?

Games (outside the classroom) and French (inside it).

Favourite teacher when you were at school?

Mr Knight, our Director of Sport, who had been a British Lion rugby player.

Favourite children’s character from a book or film

I loved Danny, from Danny the Champion of the World, as he encouraged me to believe in myself, whatever the odds.

Best school memory

Winning the International Schools Sports Tournament at Tennis, aged 16.

Is there anything you wish you’d studied at school that you didn’t?

I wish I’d known more about meta-cognition then: learning how to learn. All too often education is about forcing square pegs through round holes, and I would have loved to know more about how I, as an individual, learned back then.

What’s your proudest achievement at your current school?

Watching our children represent their school with such pride. Whether singing as a Choir in places like Belgium, winning Surrey Cups and National Swimming Titles or guiding parents at Open Mornings, they are the perfect ambassadors for Downsend, the stars of the show, certainly!

What are you looking forward to this coming year?

I want to complete a project which will deliver a new multi-million pound Creative Arts Centre to Downsend.

Alison Cordingley Headmistress at Fosse Bank School

Favourite Subject when you were at school

As now, I enjoyed whatever I was doing at the time. Had I to choose a favourite, then probably sport. I was no great athlete, but through encouragement to practise and improve, I relished playing in hockey and netball teams.

Favourite teacher when you were at school

I loved each teacher in turn at primary school but at senior school my biology teacher was a favourite. She was the first teacher to suggest that we pupils were part of the learning process and that we had some control over what and how we learned.

Favourite children’s character from a book or film

At primary school my favourite character was Mary Lennox from The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. To me she seemed a very exotic person. Having lived in India with servants she was transported to a different life in England where she had to be independent. And it has a happy ending.

Best school memory

One of my best school memories is when I was aged five and in the Reception class. One of the other girls in the class was absent on the day we had to cut out our self-portraits. I was asked to finish her work because “You are so good at cutting out.” It reminds me as an adult, how easy it is to make a child feel proud with a kind comment.

Anything you wish you had studied at school that you didn’t?

Technically I did study Latin but failed to understand its relevance and by my second year at senior school I was relegated to the class which read Winnie the Pooh in Latin rather than grasping the grammar. I wish I had persevered at the time but I enjoyed learning Latin properly much later, after I had left school.

What is your proudest achievement at your current school?

I am proud of our eleven year olds who are going to the best senior schools this September. It is pleasing that our pupils will be going to their new schools as confident, independent people, ready to embrace change and challenge and that these traits are a result of their experience at Fosse Bank.

What are you looking forward to this coming year?

We began taking two year olds this year and their presence really focused my mind on the many benefits of children learning in the open air. Following our official affiliation to the Forest School Association we are rolling out provision for Forest School sessions to all our children as part of the curriculum. I intend to join in on occasion!

John Southworth Principal of MPW London

Favourite subject when you were at school?

I loved car maintenance and woodwork! That is probably why I then went on to study Engineering at university. The skills and knowledge I gained from these subjects has stayed with me throughout my teaching career as I went on to teach Systems and Control and in my spare time I have restored a couple of old Porsches, and frame all of my wife’s paintings and prints.

Favourite teacher when you were at school?

Mike Cook at Haberdashers’ Aske’s. He taught me English and rugby and I still remember him giving me a lift to school each day in his MGB when I would try to cram my ’cello into the back seat!

Favourite children’s character from a book or film?

I really liked Joe 90! The idea that someone could be given another’s knowledge by a transfer of brainpower is very much like the teaching profession.

Best school memory?

Being part of the rugby team was a great experience. We had such a great team spirit and it was always such fun playing under the tutelage of Di Davies, Doug Yeabsley and Ralph Warmington.

Is there anything you wish you’d studied at school that you didn’t?

At my college we offer 47 different A Levels, many of which were not available when I was at school. If I had the choice now I would like to study an EPQ (Extended Project Qualification) as I believe this has real merit in terms of university entry. I would certainly do something on robotics. From my school time, I would probably have liked to have done Geography as I really enjoyed this at O Level, especially a project I did on viticulture.

What’s your proudest achievement at your current school?

Although I have been at MPW for over three years, I have only been Principal this academic year. I have lots I want to accomplish as long as it focuses on my students having opportunities to achieve to the best of their ability and that they are happy and contented throughout their time with us.

What are you looking forward to this coming year?

I really enjoy interviewing prospective students and then welcoming them to my college. Given all the exam reforms, I think this year could be the most exciting.

Tracey Fantham Headteacher at Manor House School

Shaun Fenton Headmaster of Reigate Grammar

Favourite subject when you were at school

I was lucky that I enjoyed all my subjects at school and especially the chance to throw myself into sport, drama and other activities. Because of my own school days, at Reigate Grammar School I believe that it is the extra-curricular programme that helps develop the qualities of character that are required for later life.

Favourite teacher when you were at school

Rev David Lyndsay was my favourite teacher and has been a mentor and inspiration to me ever since – in fact we met for a cup of tea and a chat just last week.

Favourite children’s character from a book or film

Well I suppose, as Headmaster, it would have to be Dumbledore from Hogwarts!

Best school memory

When I played Pharaoh in the school production of Joseph and his Amazing Technicolour Dream Coat, there was a small flash bang explosion that set my Elvis style wig on fire. It was a few moments of madness that I will never forget but, as they say, ‘the show must go on’!

What is your proudest achievement at your current school?

I am always proudest when I shake the hands of the school leavers in the Upper Sixth as they move on as happy, healthy high achieving young adults ready to make the world a better place. I am struck, each year, by what impressive young adults they have become.

What are you looking forward to this coming year?

Each year the day I look forward to most of all is the first day of the new academic year when the school floods with new students and those returning from the summer break. At that moment, I feel an overwhelming optimism for the year ahead and realise what a privilege it is to be Headmaster.

There is so much more to look forward to this year as we complete a major new building, as our sports teams look to build on their national trophies and our arts produce dozens of shows and concerts. I always look forward to congratulating the students who secure their pilot’s licence through the cadets or talking to those returning from scuba diving in Belize. There is always so much more to look forward to in the weeks and months ahead as our young people discover talents they didn’t know they had and reach standards they hadn’t dreamed of – can you tell that I love my job?

Gareth Doodes, Headmaster of Dover College

Gareth Doodes, Headmaster of Dover College

Ian Thorpe Headmaster of Downsend School

Ian Thorpe, Headmaster of Downsend School

Alison Cordingley Headmistress at Fosse Bank School

Alison Cordingley, Headmistress at Fosse Bank School

John Southworth Principal of MPW London

John Southworth, Principal of MPW London

Tracey Fantham, Headteacher at Manor House School

Shaun Fenton Headmaster of Reigate Grammar

Shaun Fenton, Headmaster of Reigate Grammar

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