Alan Henderson, St John’s Marlborough’s new principal, took up his post in September and says he is “really excited to be here. St John’s is a fabulous school with a well-deserved wonderful reputation. I’m enjoying getting to know our bright, articulate, polite, young people and I’m really looking forward to working with parents and the community.”
Alan, who hails from Northern Ireland, has spent 25 years in teaching and became a History teacher because he was passionate about certain periods of history and he was keen to inspire his students. “Teaching is,” he says, “a tough profession, but it is rewarding. I have always enjoyed working and interacting with young people, outside the classroom as well as in. Young people tell you how it is and I’m quite like that and respond to that.”
Alan and his family moved to Salisbury in 2009. He became Deputy Head at St Edmund’s School, now Wyvern St Edmund’s, before moving to his first headship at John of Gaunt School, Hungerford. After leading the school out of ‘special measures’ to achieving a ‘good’ from OFSTED, Alan became head at Melksham Oak School, a much bigger school. St John’s with over 1700 students on roll is bigger still.
However, Alan explained that the same approach and issues apply whatever the size of the school. “It’s all about being clear with students and the whole school community about what our expectations are.” To help make expectations clear, the school has published “Five Fundamentals” which are displayed around the school and make clear the behaviour expected from students in every lesson. It is hoped the ‘Five Fundamentals’ will help students readapt to life in education after the disruptions of Covid. This is a problem faced by every school in the country.
The ‘Five Fundamentals’ are just the start of Alan’s plans. Another big change that has been introduced concerns the use of mobile phones. Alan commented, “I was struck by the over reliance on mobile phones and over use of social media around the school which was particularly unhealthy. After consultation with staff, we have introduced a ban on mobile phone use during school time. It’s having a hugely positive impact. Now I see students chatting in groups of friends instead of looking at their phones.”
Graded ‘outstanding’ by OFSTED in 2014, St John’s is due to be inspected again and possibly very soon. “Many legacy ‘outstanding’ schools have struggled to maintain ‘outstanding’ when OFSTED visits again,” explained Alan. However, he feels that his background in school improvement should be helpful in identifying any areas that need strengthening at St John’s. “I’m looking to ensure we have established high expectations in all areas – student behaviour, quality of the curriculum, quality of Teaching and Learning in the classroom, effective assessment and reporting and co-curricular offers.”
Alan is married with two children and two cocker spaniels and lives in Salisbury. His wife, Louise, is Headteacher at Wyvern St Edmund’s, Salisbury. The family are keen skiers and frequently visit France and Switzerland for skiing. Alan is also passionate about watching rugby and cricket.