Retiring head, David Edwards, shares his vision for learning
Having welcomed David when he arrived at Humphrey Perkins 12 years ago, Barrow Voice now puts him in the spotlight once again as he prepares to retire at the end of July.
When I interviewed him at the start of a typical busy school day, he commented that while his arrival seems like only yesterday, he is finding it quite odd to look back and reflect on all the changes of 12 years. His overwhelming feeling is what an enormous privilege it has been to be able to touch the lives of the children and adults who have passed through Humphrey Perkins but, also, what a huge responsibility. Increasingly, he believes that school must never become a factory to churn out children who meet attendance and exam result targets. Rather school must have a conscience for the lives and needs of each child as an individual.
David is quite sceptical about the external systems that are supposed to measure “success”. Over the last few years there has been a coming together of the aspirations of teachers and governors at Humphrey Perkins to take the broader view. During this time, School has developed the confidence and power to challenge the “official orthodoxy” and, therefore, to change quite radically its aims, priorities and placing of resources. It is no longer limited just to meeting official targets. Instead, Humphrey Perkins is now all about placing the total well-being of the person at the centre of its priorities. The new systems that have been put in place represent the school moving to achieve its own vision; to be innovative.
One such development has been the establishing of Humphrey Perkins as a centre of excellence in the Arts. David is enormously proud of the Arts College status that was achieved in September 2008. However, he points out that School was already moving in this direction before the opportunity arose to allow High Schools (ie 11 - 14) to apply. There had to be plenty of cooperative working with local schools to tick the right boxes. Eighteen months later, David can rattle off exciting examples of individual children who have really benefited from their involvement in the very wide range of arts activities - orchestral and choral music, whole school productions of musicals and plays, dance, drama, film, media, creative textiles, visual arts and so on. For example, singing leaders from year 9 have visited partner primary schools to encourage the younger pupils in their singing as part of a giant “Sing Out” project, culminating in choral workshops and performances at HPHS for large numbers of junior children. You can imagine the boost it gives those Year 9 pupils! However, David acknowledges that what has been achieved so far has only scratched the surface of what is possible. He is confident that his successor will have the vision and ambition to drive Humphrey Perkins forward in this and other areas.David sees the school of the future existing as a centre of resources not just for its pupils but for whole families; a single point from which a range of services can be accessed to offer a life line to children and parents who need them. The well-being of the child and, indeed, of their family, is a vital starting point for any kind of real learning. He had hoped that this might be what was meant by the expression “transforming learning” that is supposed to be at the heart of bids to access the pot of money called Building Schools for the Future. Sadly, he suspects that this isn’t what politicians are looking for. They merely want better exam results and better attendance figures.
It is hardly surprising that David has decided not to train as an Ofsted inspector. Instead, he proposes to retire “properly”. He wants to spend more time on the passions that recently have had to take second place: catching trout by fly fishing, bird watching and getting back to serious piano playing. He hopes to take a bigger role in his church and to provide more support to his wife in her passion for gardening. I wondered if this might help to fill the void when there are no longer children at the centre of his life. He knows he will miss them terribly and also the staff and governors who have been so supportive..
Barrow Voice would like to take this opportunity to thank David for all that he has done for the school and community and to wish him a rewarding retirement.