My name is Tom Sherrington. I am a Headteacher and a teacher. I am interested in developing new ideas in teaching and learning and regularly contribute to conferences and CPD sessions locally and nationally. I work at @KEGS_Chelmsford, a Grammar school in Essex where I have seen learning activities that I’ve never seen anywhere else; these ideas would work anywhere and I am on a mission to encourage and challenge teachers to take more risks and release the full creative potential of the learning process. KEGS is an extraordinary school – and, having been a committed comprehensive teacher for many years, it was an unusual career move. However, in these pages, I hope to capture some of the experience of making the journey; after five years I still regularly have jaw-dropping, eye-opening moments where firstly I think ‘wow, that is incredible’ and secondly, I think ‘ but surely this could be happening in every school; I wish I’d tried this back in London’. Although it is a highly selective school, I regard KEGS as a genuine beacon, illustrating what is possible in learning if we have enough courage and confidence. Every day at KEGS is a joy and I feel genuinely privileged to work here with such extraordinary students and members of staff. Most of the best lessons I have ever seen, I have seen at KEGS.
Update March 2014: I’m delighted to announce that from September 2014, I will be the Headteacher of Highbury Grove School in Islington. Although I feel very attached to the staff and students at KEGS, the time has come to move on, to return to London and take on a new challenge. Highbury Grove is a very exciting school with an amazing track record of improvement over the last few years; I’m very much looking forward to getting started.
I’ve been a teacher since 1987 and owe a great deal to all the schools I’ve worked in. Each of them has been extraordinary in some special way:
Winstanley College, Wigan: A Sixth Form college with 900+ students. Learned a lot about independent learning, teaching Physics properly and seeing a great education as being much more than just subjects and lessons. Met Tom Billington – the first huge influence on me as a teacher; it is all about passion, commitment and integrity.
Holland Park School, Notting Hill. Seven extraordinary years from Teacher, Head of Year to Assistant Head. The flagship comprehensive of the 1960s, now up against it in the 1990s. Struggling to break 30% 5A-Cs, (nevermind inc EM) – 1500 students, big, chaotic, a roller-coaster every day. The inclusive spirit was fabulous but we used to say it was 90% ethos, 10% achievement. A baptism of fire in terms of behaviour management and eye-opening in terms of the scale of the challenge facing kids from the full range of inner city families. We laughed a lot and cried quite often too! It was frustrating and challenging but we all loved the place. So many stories and I owe it so much..
Alexandra Park School. Haringey. Joined Headteacher Roz Hudson as Deputy Head to open a new school in 1999. Starting with Year 7, we set out to create the ultimate community comprehensive. 10 years on, it is doing really well and I’m very proud to have been part of it. The early years were an amazing learning experience; appointing all the staff, shaping the ethos and being absolutely committed to our simple ‘success for all’ tagline. We believed in it and were determined so set the highest possible expectations. I felt out of my depth with some of the challenges at times, but surrounded by the most talented bunch of teachers and support staff, we pulled through and put the school on the map!! (Roz Hudson remains my greatest inspiration. ) Twitter ‘big hitter’ @TeacherToolkit was one of my colleagues in those early days.
British International School, Jakarta. A fabulous, unforgettable three-year adventure for me and my family. I learned to appreciate the power of an almost total achievement culture; how to sustain it and use it to good effect. Wonderfully eclectic staff and students from around the world; facilities out of this world. I also learned about the IB Diploma and all that it brings; a narrow 3 A level diet really can’t compare. I also became Head of Secondary and developed a taste for the joy of Headship. The holidays were pretty good too- from Bali and Kalimantan to Sydney and Queenstown.
‘Saya Guru’ means ‘I am a teacher’ in Bahasa Indonesia. I am only a guru in the sense that it means ‘teacher'; all teachers are gurus!
May 2014: I contributed this piece to Rory Gallagher’s excellent ‘Who I am What I do’ blog. It gives a bit more background.