This time last year, I was about to meet Mr Smith for the ceremonial handing over of the keys to the Headmaster’s study.
Having accepted the offer to be the 10th Headmaster of Truro School a year earlier, it’s fair to say I was rather champing at the bit to get going, albeit with a touch of trepidation. Mr Smith was his usual gracious self. Before bidding me farewell and best wishes, he disclosed that he had left me a rather nice bottle of single malt in the dresser, with instructions that it was to be used for medicinal purposes only – if I ever found that I had had one of those days. I understand that Mr Dodd, his predecessor, had done the same for him, but am nonetheless somewhat hesitant to call it a Methodist School tradition!
It won’t surprise you that in the year before I arrived I thought a great deal about Truro School and the sort of Headmaster I would be. But there is much about assuming the mantle of headship that you cannot really prepare for; instead you learn by doing. The time spent in my first term meeting our teachers and support staff was well spent. I knew I was inheriting a good school before I started, but this became abundantly clear when I reflected on the talented group of professionals I was now privileged to lead. In my view, outstanding schools achieve this status because they are full of outstanding teachers. One year down the track, and now in the process of prioritising our core strategic goals for the coming years, I draw confidence that the people around me have what it takes for us to be that beacon of inclusive excellence we aspire to be (esse quam videri).
It strikes me that Truro School has been hiding its light under a bushel. As the only HMC school in a county of such distinctiveness, interest and beauty, we should be telling our story from the rooftops. I love the fact that Cornwall is such a hive of creative and performing arts, has such a proud sporting tradition, and that our doorstep includes 300 miles of awe-inspiring coastal path, complete with dramatic headlands, estuaries and beaches. Who would want to grow up anywhere else? Have we settled well as a family? You bet we have.
Of course headship has its lonely moments, but spending time with our pupils is about the best possible tonic. When I need bringing down a peg or two, I am called to Willday House to give an assembly to the pre-prep. When I need heartening after a day stuck in my office, I am uplifted during my careers lessons engaging with the 5th Year students about their post-16 options. Our pupils’ music making – in concerts large and small – offers an opportunity for reflection and contemplation as another busy day draws to a close. A walk along the touchline invariably makes me proud of the amazing talent and good sportsmanship on display in equal measure.
Getting into classrooms to observe how our teachers are accompanying our boys and girls on their learning journey is one of my most important and enjoyable jobs. It seems obvious, but is worth repeating, that the reason Truro School exists is for the education of children. Demanding and difficult it may be, but, having worked in a range of jobs, in different industries, in different countries, I cannot think of anywhere I would rather be.
I want to offer my best wishes to all in the Truro School community for a happy, challenging and fulfilling 2014. I am very grateful for the warm welcome that we have received as a family. It remains a great honour to lead the school and, after a relaxing break over Christmas, I am once again champing at the bit to get back to work.
Happy New Year to you all.