Matthew talks about his time in business before moving into the education sector, and what improvements he’d like to see in schools.
On leaving Radley and going to Durham University did you have a career plan in mind?
I didn’t have any particular plans in mind, although I had thought that perhaps I might become a teacher. I think it was expected by dons, and myself, that I would take English at university but I decided against that and took Psychology instead. While it’s an extremely popular course now at the time it was an emerging and exciting new discipline. It was neither art nor science and I felt it would leave me free to do anything I wanted.
When I left Durham I went on a graduate programme at a large global company which is now known as Accenture. It paid a good salary and gave me a great lifestyle. I stayed for roughly two years.
During 1996 and 1999 you did a Masters at the Open University, were you working as well?
After Accenture, I spent the next five years working for Kumon which is an international provider of supplementary education. It was during this time that I finally decided to become a teacher and so whilst still working full time for Kumon, I completed a Masters degree in Education with the Open University, with a focus on English; then, in 2000, I resigned from Kumon and completed a one-year, full time PGCE English (Secondary) at the University of London’s Institute of Education. I began my teaching career in an inner-city comprehensive in London.
Was your new career choice inspired by any teachers at Radley?
No, not really – although I had some great teachers and several did inspire a love of literature. If I had to name specific teachers it would be Mr Floyd and Mr Swarbrick; they both taught English and made it very interesting. There was also Mr Evans who was eccentric and would bring his dog to the lesson and smoke his pipe. Mr Evans smoked the pipe, not the dog!
When you became Director of Boarding at Brighton College did your draw on your own experiences at Radley – positives or negatives?
A bit of both really, for the most part I had a very positive experience at Radley. I had a traditional house master, Dick Usherwood, traditional because you really didn’t see much of him unless there was a problem. Interestingly, during my first day at Brighton College I saw his name on an honours board, turns out he was an Old Brightonian; he was an outstanding sportsman and had been Head Boy.
In 2013, Tatler Magazine said your boarding house at Brighton College was ‘the cool place to stay’, what was cool about it?
I didn’t know at the time! I think it was a combination of many things, the whole school team was actively getting Brighton College better known. The success of the school meant lots of new pupils were arriving and we were probably more modern, less stuffy, compared to a traditional model. We were easy going, put on lots of plays and events, invited others to join us, had lots of fun and entertainment.
What do you enjoy most about your current role at Caterham School?
I’m one of several Deputy Heads, my responsibilities include admissions, marketing and communications, plus I still teach English. It’s an excellent school and I like the mix of academic and administrative duties.
With hindsight do you wish you had made different career choices at any time?
No, I could have become a teacher much earlier but my years in business were a good experience and I’m glad to have had them.
Do you ever see yourself working at Radley?
Not in the immediate future. I’m starting a new role in September as the Senior Deputy Head at Downe House in Newbury, which is a terrific girls’ boarding school. Downe House and Radley already have links so there is a chance I will be visiting Radley in a professional capacity. But who knows what the future may bring.
If you had the chance what would you improve about education?
Two things. Firstly, whilst there are many outstanding schools in the UK, in general our academic expectations and aspirations for children should be much higher.
Secondly, the independent sector is great at providing a holistic education which includes co-curriculum activities, sport, trips, etc. I would like to see this happen more at state schools too. We should be educating the whole person.
For a while you were a freelance journalist with articles published in the Telegraph, is this something you would still like to do?
I wrote a column for the Daily Telegraph for about 5 years. My first teaching job was in a state school in west London and I wrote about my experiences there and carried on writing articles when I started working in the independent sector at Latymer Upper School. It’s something that I would like to return to, maybe soon.
What advice do you give to current pupils looking ahead to a world of work?
We tell them to find something they enjoy doing, something that is sustainable, do you really want to work all hours including the weekends and burnout by your 30s. Decide what your priorities are: money, location, hours, enjoyment, progression, corporate company, work for yourself etc.
What are your memories of Radley?
I enjoyed golf and tennis, and the freedom we had to go on long bike rides at weekends. Chapel was a big part of school life, I’m not sure I liked it at the time but it is certainly up there with fond memories of Radley. I also enjoyed the Singleton Society where we sat around and discussed current events.