28th January 2022

A word from Principal, Richard Settle

Principal Richard Settle, Weekly Word, Sancton Wood

This week I read two interesting articles about ‘voices’. The first concerned a man called Dan Johnson who recorded a version of Desert Island Disks with his own father as the subject. Dan and his family have taken great comfort from listening to this recording in the years since his fathers’ passing.

I also read the story of Margaret McCollom, a woman who took similar comfort from listening to a pre-recorded announcement her husband, Oswald, made for the London underground before his death in 2007. In her grief, Margaret took to traveling via the underground and listening to her beloved husband’s voice. The recording dates back more than 45 years – and at one point could be heard along the length of the northbound Northern line before being phased out – except at Embankment. However, the authorities did eventually replace the voice there with a standard computer-generated version. Distressed by the fact she could no longer listen to Oswald’s voice, Margaret asked Transport for London if she could get a copy of the recording. Staff managed to track it down and eventually worked to restore the announcement at the Embankment station so that she could continue to hear it.

Whilst these are both lovely stories, the voices in question are tangible ones that can still be heard by all. Sometimes the voices that inspire and guide us are often the ones we cannot hear in the usual sense, they are stored in our brains and recalled from time to time when we most need them. Quite often these voices will be those of teachers from our past and this is one of the reasons why teaching is such a wonderful profession, giving us the opportunity to influence, inspire and shape the citizens of the future. I read a quote from Jonathan Van Tamm recently that speaks to this:
“I’ve always been struck by the fact that the next generation are more important than we are and if you have that kind of mindset then you pick up that sense of mission that whatever you do in life, it’s important to leave a legacy. And to pass on skills and ambitions and motivation and desire to the next generation.”

Each year, as GCSE students leave their exams room you can hear them saying things like: ‘I could just hear Mrs Smith’s voice in my head, telling me to stick to the question!” The remembered voice of the teacher becomes quite powerful, essential in these moments of pressure; and this is something that continues as the student progress through life.

I have always been surprised, therefore, that some teachers choose to leave behind a negative imprint on their students; one in which the memory of them invokes some sort of Pavlovian response of revulsion or fear in their former student. I can certainly remember, quite vividly, the teachers I loathed and some of the things they said to me, thinking back I don’t remember any sort of positivity from them at all. But there are others, however, for whom I have nothing but fondness and I can recall their wise words and sayings to this day. Indeed, when teaching a class alliteration, I still use the exact same examples that my English teacher taught me almost 40 years ago, a sort of personal homage and thanks to them from across the years.

The ability to impact our future generation should inspire and drive teachers. I tell my team quite often that the students cannot have their school days again and the imprint of their experiences at SW will stay with them forever. Therefore, it is a special privilege to shape those memories. I trust my staff to strive to be firm but never unfair, warm and friendly always, steady, unchanging and, vitally, kind and patient. They must also choose their words carefully, some of them may be remembered for a lifetime.

Richard Settle, Principal


To read about Dan Johnson, click here

To read about Margaret McCollom click here

Read last weeks “A word from the Principal” here:




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