14th July 2017

Interview with Headmaster

Sancton Wood, Cambridge

Richard Settle is head of Cambridge day school Sancton Wood. As Alice Ryan discovers, he shelved childhood ambitions of becoming Kevin Keegan to follow his father into teaching – and found it was his dream job.

Tell me about your path into teaching:

My dad was a teacher. He gave me one piece of advice that was a constant: “Richard, never ever become a teacher”. I qualified at the earliest opportunity, aged 22, and have never looked back. Dad isn’t known for his wisdom.

Why did you want to be a teacher?

There were plenty of teachers id had who I despised, largely because they were bullies and used fear as their motivating technique. I wanted to be able to provide an alternative – to make children feel relaxed and happy; to learn because they felt safe and secure, not scared.

What do you love most about teaching?

Being able to make my students’ experience of school a special once, something memorable.

What’s the biggest challenge facing schools today?

Plenty there. I have to say it’s a blessing to be the independent sector and free from a lot of the pressures put on schools by the government. GCSE reform worries me though.

What were you like at school?

Fairley quite, happy not to be the centre of attention. That’s changed.

What did you want to be when you were younger – and why?

I went through a stage where I really wanted to be Kevin Keegan, then later Morrissey, but, boringly, I have to say that I always knew I was going to be a teacher.

What’s the one thing you know now that you wish you could have known when growing up?

I’m much more of a ‘big picture’ person now. I regret that I’ve spent so much time worrying about small things, insignificant details.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

The best revenge is to lead a happy life.

What’s the worst job you’ve ever had – and why?

I spent 10 horrible hours in the taxi dispatch centre in Hulme, Manchester. Given my limited geographical skills and a fair number of language barriers, it did not go at all well. I wasn’t invited back.

What’s the funniest moment you’ve have in the classroom?

Loads. Just last week, while observing a Spanish lesson, I overheard a child saying “Miss, have I el finished?”


What would be your advice for budding teachers?

Get classroom experience before you apply. Think about the type of school you want to work in – its different strokes for different folks in teaching and not all schools are the same. Once you’ve got a job: DON’T spend all summer planning all your lessons. It’ll be a waste of time as a good scheme of work should be a fluid thing.

What has been the proudest moment of your career so far?

I was very proud that Sancton Wood was top of the league tables for points per student for GCSE’s last year, but I’m pretty much bursting with pride whenever I watch a performance, sports fixture, recital … any event showcasing how brilliant our students are.

What makes your school such a special place to teach?

The whole sparkling cocktail of great staff, wonderful pupils and a special ethos.

Tell me a little bit about your life outside of teaching. What do you like to do in your spare time?

I’m a keen runner – up to my 10th marathon this year. I’m a lifelong Man City fan, which has meant that the gallows humour of my youth has had to be revised lately. Frankly, I still don’t know what to make of it all.

Can you reveal something unexpected which your pupils wouldn’t know about you?

I actually dye my hair a distinguishing shade of grey for effect. I’m really a natural blonde.


Taken from ‘Cambridge Magazine’ September 2015

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