We are delighted to announce that John Evans has been appointed as the new Head of the Junior School from September 2019.
My first impression of Royal Russell was the tangible sense of community I felt within the school. I sensed an enthusiasm and a joy of learning that permeated every aspect of school life I encountered. This initial impression has rung true on each of my subsequent visits and I have been struck by the generous welcome from all. There is an evident sense of warmth from everyone you meet at Royal Russell and I immediately felt at home.
Royal Russell Junior School will welcome over 70 new families in September and mine will be one of them. My son, Oscar, will be joining Reception and my wife, Kerry, and I are delighted to be joining this wonderful community.
After University, my teaching career began in Cambridgeshire and, during my time at St. John’s College Prep School, I taught a range of children of various ages. Alongside lessons in the classroom, I shared my love of sport, especially rowing, with some of the older children. I have always believed in the importance of a broad range of experiences to transform young people’s lives. I also took every opportunity to involve myself in co-curricular trips and activities, including boarding duties, ski trips and adventure trips abroad.
I’m happy to report that my first taste of London life was south of the river at Dulwich Prep London. As a family, we are looking forward to reconnecting with South London and rediscovering what makes this such a special corner of the country. During my time at Dulwich Prep, I taught a variety of subjects to classes in Years 3 and 4 and then focused on English with older pupils, preparing for transition to senior schools. Again, co-curricular clubs and activities were a mainstay of my time and I have many happy memories of trips to Snowdonia and a specific challenge to cycle across the breadth of the country through the Lake District and Pennines.
Currently, I am the Senior Deputy Head at Haberdashers’ Aske’s Boys’ Preparatory School with oversight of academic matters and the day to day running of the school. ‘Habs’ is similar to Royal Russell in terms of both the age range of the children and the commitment to excellence in all areas. It is a real privilege to watch our children transition from the Junior School to the Senior School and support them as they become outstanding young people of admirable character and I know that I will feel the same pride as I become part of the Royal Russell community.
I am delighted to be taking on the leadership of such a successful and well-regarded Junior School as Royal Russell and I am very much looking forward to continuing the outstanding work of James Thompson and the team.
What will be your first priority?
When anyone joins a new community, the first priority is getting to know it inside out. This takes time, but it also takes an understanding of the shared values within the community. It isn’t just getting to know the right answers, but about asking the right questions. As you might expect, I am currently working through a thorough transition programme with the school, staff and, of course, the pupils and I will be on site regularly in the lead up to September. I can’t wait to get to know the school and enhance my understanding of what makes Royal Russell so special.
Why did you want to be a teacher?
My Mother was a Home Economics teacher and, from a young age, I could see how motivated and rewarded she was by her work. I knew that the reward of a career in teaching would be that I could genuinely change other people’s lives for the better. The surest way to happiness is to make other people happy and I know I am working towards that goal every day.
What do you love most about teaching?
I relish the challenge of teaching and love learning itself. I have learnt so much from the different environments I have worked in, both from my colleagues and the pupils in my care. In the classroom, I am thrilled by curiosity and discovery. Teaching is not about imparting your own knowledge, but it is about inspiring young minds to want to learn, develop and grow. Moving into leadership positions, I have remained focused on my time in the classroom and see this as a crucial, and enjoyable, part of my role.
What’s the biggest challenge facing pupils and schools today?
For families, there is a huge need to understand that childhood has changed so much since many parents were children themselves. The pressure on young people to live their lives under the scrutiny of social media is intense. It is difficult to be a parent managing these pressures too, as I know well.
For schools, academic progress, stimulated through curiosity and challenge, will, and should, always form an important part of what schools provide. However, schools also have a responsibility to support young people as they prepare to enter a world which can often seem quite uncertain. There is no exact formula to getting this right in school or at home, but what is key is establishing and maintaining deliberate and purposeful communication between home and school that places the child at the centre of a shared set of values and a supportive community with their best interests at heart.
What were you like at school?
I was lucky enough to attend a school where my teachers really cared about my progress, even if I didn’t always see the bigger picture myself. My favourite subject was always English and I relished the opportunity to read widely and discuss my ideas with my peers. I was not particularly talented on the sports field, yet I loved all aspects of school and got involved in all manner of activities from sports to trips at home and abroad, backstage work at theatre productions and volunteering for St. John’s Ambulance.
Which teacher inspired you, and how?
An inspirational teacher in my own education was one of my A level English teachers, Mr. Earp, who helped to grow my love of English Literature. I can still hear his distinctive ‘middle English’ accent reading us Chaucer and will always remember him allowing us to choose our own path of study. I hope I have been able to share that love for the subject and a willingness to allow pupils to follow their own curiosity in their learning in my career.
Before teaching, what did you want to be when you were younger – and why?
I spent a lot of my younger years wanting to be a pilot. I always enjoyed how excited people were when they were going on holiday and being a pilot seemed like a great way to enjoy that sense of adventure as well as an easy way to travel the world. Luckily, I have managed to travel to some exciting places even if I was not sitting at the front!
What’s the one thing you know now that you wish you could have known when growing up?
One thing I know now that I wish I knew when I was younger, is that hard work really does pay off. A big challenge can seem an insurmountable task, but it is important to take one step at a time, one day at a time and know that you are moving towards your goals. In addition to this, it would be comforting to my younger self to know that those same friends with whom I spent so many happy hours would still be my close friends today and that we have shared some of life’s milestones together. The friends you make at school really can become your family and that sense of a strong school community never really leaves you.
What would be your advice for budding teachers?
My advice for any budding teachers would be to keep learning. The best teachers may be newly qualified or have been in the profession for decades and decades, but they are always ready to try something new or try something in a different way. The most effective teachers know the impact they are having and the difference they make to young people. Also, to remember that a sense of humour will carry them through many, many different scenarios!
What has been the proudest moment of your career so far?
Of course, I’m delighted to have been appointed as the Head of Royal Russell Junior School. Nevertheless, the proudest moments in my career have always been the successes of children. Sometimes it’s the little things: doing something for the first time, having the confidence to approach a challenge in a new way or simply persevering when something has been particularly tough. You never get tired of seeing a child achieve something they did not think they could.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
I’m a social person and I love spending time with my family and friends. I enjoy being outdoors whenever possible: walking, cycling and the (very) occasional jog. I love sport too and I am so pleased that there are aspects of my professional role which allow me the opportunity to watch competitions and matches.