Ian Tucker, the new Principal at St John’s Marlborough, took up the post in January. He was previously Headteacher at Abbeyfield School in Chippenham. Originally from Ilkley, West Yorkshire, Ian is married with two sons and a daughter and lives in Malmesbury. His wife is a deputy-head at a Swindon primary school.
He is excited by the potential St John’s has to offer. “It’s an absolutely incredible school and it’s ready to fly! Starting in January is an unusual time to take on a school but I have been given a wonderful welcome.”
This is despite finding himself contacted on day one by Sky News and many other national papers. The St John’s ski trip returning by coach had inadvertently brought back a Calais refugee stowaway to Marlborough.
“Nothing like this has ever happened to me before but I was really impressed with the way parents, staff and students handled the situation. It’s led to a review of all Wiltshire schools’ risk assessment for trips abroad.”
Ian is pleased that St John’s staff have embraced his vision for high standards and what he calls his Wildly Important Goal (WIG). This has become a mantra and appears on all staff members’ lanyards: “Truly great schools don’t do anything different. They just do what they do really well.”
Only two and half months into the job and already he has implemented new attendance procedures, worked on ensuring the uniform policy is adhered to, put in place working parties to review Teaching and Learning and Behaviour for Learning Strategies, and sought parents’ views on mobile phone use in school. There will be clear rules for student mobile phone use in and out of lessons published by Term 6.
He has also reviewed the different pathways on offer to students in Years 10 and 11 and encouraged a higher proportion of students to study a modern foreign language.
“I’m keen to look at how we challenge our students. I want to give teachers the opportunity to get their craft back and cut out the things that can get in the way of teaching. We have very talented teachers and I want to use that talent.”
He has liaised with Marlborough College, the police and town council to support young people in the area. On April 30 an evening entitled ‘Risky Business’ will be open to parents and the local community with professionals offering advice on teenage mental health, drugs and alcohol awareness.
In a week when education spending cuts have featured in the media, Ian Tucker is concerned that Wiltshire as a whole is poorly funded and schools receive less per pupil than neighbouring Bristol. He is part of the North Wilts Heads’ group who are lobbying our local MP’s and who have visited the Schools’ minister in London. However, he is not having to make cuts at St John’s at present and the school will still be able to continue to run subjects such as Latin and Classics.
“But I’m having to think carefully what to spend money on. We’re on the edge and if things don’t improve schools will have very little to enhance their curriculum in years to come.”
Future plans for St John’s include a new multi-use games area, with or without floodlights, depending on the results of a bat survey! Some more buildings to enhance facilities and an increase in student numbers in the sixth form are also planned.
Ian, who has a degree in Theology and Philosophy, plans to teach six periods per week in the Humanities Department from September. He started his career as a primary school teacher which he says has given him a real interest in pedagogy for the 3-18 age range and an awareness of how important it is to be high profile in a school, and meeting and greeting at the school gate.
He told marlborough.news: “A good principal has to focus on humility. You have to be a very effective listener and communicator and keep things simple. You must focus on teaching and learning and use the talent around you. The team behind the principal is most important. One person on their own can’t be successful.”
Ian Tucker firmly believes St John’s as a high achieving school, can offer students of all levels, whatever their background, the chance to make excellent progress. “There is so much potential here.” I n the words of his mantra: “We can do what we do really well and become the top performing school in Wiltshire.”