Meet the Headteacher

A school is a community of people; almost 1900 in our case, and as such the ethos, climate and leadership of any school is so much bigger than just one person. That said, on the four occasions that I have been a prospective applicant to a school, meeting the Headteacher and finding out a little about his/her values, priorities and ambitions for the future were seminal to me in terms of making a decision about whether or not to apply for a post in the respective school. As such, I would like to offer all prospective applicants to our wonderful school, the same opportunity.

A little about me. I am 39 years old and have taught in four schools prior to Bournside; I spent three consecutive years in two schools in central London and then one in Twickenham, before moving to Chipping Campden School, where I spent nine years, progressing from a Head of Year to Assistant Headteacher. I joined Bournside in January 2012 as Deputy Headteacher and having spent a year as Acting Headteacher, I was appointed as the school’s Headteacher from September 2017. I am Yorkshire ‘born and bred’ and my early years were spent in the town of Rotherham until the age of 18, when I left to study a BEd in mathematics at the University of Exeter, graduating in 2001. I now live in Tewkesbury with my wife and two daughters, aged 8 and 10 years old.

I am a firm advocate of comprehensive education and believe that schools should serve the communities in which they exist. As such, my vision for Cheltenham Bournside School and Sixth Form Centre is that we are the hub of our local community, a first-choice for students within the area we serve and through living our values of being purposeful, proud, respectful, curious and supportive, students in all year groups across the school will be offered a consistently superb standard of education and will achieve highly.

I am very much a ‘hands-on’ Headteacher and am very visible around the school. A significant part of my role is to spend as much time with our students as possible, sharing in their learning and celebrating their many successes. I eat lunch with our students every day and walk the site every lunchtime with a team of voluntary ‘student ambassadors against litter’, ensuring that the small amount of rogue litter on our site is picked-up, resulting in a clean, tidy site that we can all take pride in. I spend time every day in lessons, speaking with staff and students, ensuring that key strategic decisions that I make with my Senior Leadership Team, are made based on first-hand experience. I joined the profession as a teacher of mathematics and still teach. I feel it is crucial for the Headteacher of a school, not only to teach, but to engage as a practitioner in relevant pedagogical developments and debate at opportune moments throughout the school calendar. This sets the tone for the rest of the school, adds credibility to the introduction of relevant policy and enables students to visualise the Headteacher as a high quality teacher.

I am often asked what I feel makes a brilliant lesson. It would be very easy to simply quote the relevant part of the OfSTED inspection handbook, however, this could be applied to any school and is certainly not unique to Bournside. My view is that great teaching and learning is about three things: first, typicality: a great lesson cannot be a one-off. Clearly we all have experience of teaching lessons where everything just clicks and the learning experience for all concerned is close to perfect. However, great lessons aren’t just great once or twice; students arrive at the lesson knowing that they are about to have their minds challenged and that they will learn or have reinforced something very special. Second, relationships: learning involves trust, mutual respect from both sides and awareness that learning is a human exchange, reliant on contributions, mistakes, frustrations and, above all, resilience. Lastly, feedback: there is a plethora of research in and around the notion of effective feedback. What is certain is that, without it, sustained improvements in learning are unlikely. So, whilst there are many other facets to high quality teaching and learning, such as pace, differentiation, levels of engagement, I could go on; in my view, the foundations are typicality, relationships and feedback.

The curriculum offered at Bournside is inherently linked to my educational philosophy and core values, which centre around two main principles. First, that every student is unique and has particular strengths, talents and areas in which they are able to develop and grow. Secondly, that all students should feel successful in their learning and have an entitlement to learn in a safe, stimulating, inclusive environment, supported by highly committed and motivated staff, in order to achieve their potential and prepare effectively for adult life. Consequently, our curriculum is one that offers progression to a wide range of destinations, matches a mixture of academic, vocational and technical qualifications to the needs and aspirations of the students, is inclusive of all abilities and socio-economic context, and offers challenge and high expectations for all.

I am very proud to be a part of the Bournside community and it is a privilege to lead the school and be able to speak with such warmth about the people with whom I work. My role is truly rewarding and I am surrounded by highly skilled, committed staff, who care about supporting and challenging young people to be the people they want to be for the rest of their lives. I have been fortunate enough to spend the past six years of my career at Bournside and it is a truly remarkable place. Having taught and led in a variety of other schools, when I drive or cycle to school each day, I know that I am very fortunate to be coming to a very special place of work.

Gareth Burton