Surrey schools - David Thomas, headmaster of Reigate Grammar School

Founded in 1675, Reigate Grammar School is one of the UK's leading co-educational day schools. Headmaster David Thomas chats to us about music, Tom & Jerry and why he'd like to invite Barack Obama for dinner

Originally published in Surrey Life magazine October 2009

Founded in 1675, Reigate Grammar School is one of the UK’s leading co-educational day schools. Headmaster David Thomas chats to us about music, Tom & Jerry and why he’d like to invite Barack Obama for dinner

Reigate Grammar School, Reigate Road, Reigate RH2 0QS. For more details, call 01737 222231


If you hadn’t become a teacher, what would you have done instead?I read music at Oxford and started out intending to be a cathedral organist. It’s therefore a real pleasure to be able to enjoy the musical side of school life, which is of a particularly high standard here.

Was there any type of school dinner that you couldn’t stand?I was at a boarding school which gave me a lifelong aversion to vegetables of all types – to my wife’s great concern. Fortunately, school lunches now bear no resemblance to the sort that I endured – I am always first to the wok for our ‘live’ cooking on Thursdays. What were your favourite lessons? Music and maths. They often seem to go together, and I have taught both subjects.  I was very fortunate to have some outstanding teachers who never allowed pupils to get away with work that was not of the very best standard – a lesson that has stayed with me.

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So, your Desert Island Disc…? As a musician, I find it impossible to choose just one. I would not survive long without Bach or Mozart, but I am also very keen on jazz, so some Ella Fitzgerald or Glenn Millerwould be good.

What would be your favourite film of all time?Something that makes me laugh – perhaps Mel Brooks’ Young Frankenstein or Men in Black. I am also the proud owner of the complete Tom & Jerry, the finest cartoons ever created. We start our entrance exam day by showing them to the pupils to try to cheer them up and it never fails to raise a smile! If you were to have a meal held in your honour and there was one space still available, who would you like to fill it?Assuming my wife was already coming, I would invite Barack Obama. He is a man of great integrity and wisdom whom I admire enormously.

How do you like to relax away from your work? My wife and I sing in a choir every week, which is the perfect antidote to work. I have to concentrate hard (the standard is quite high), which means I can’t worry about school. And, best of all, I’m not in charge. If you were prime minister for one day, what’s the first thing you’d do? Churchill once said: “Headmasters have powers at their disposal with which prime ministers have never been invested.” On that basis, I’m not sure I would enjoy being prime minister. However, my first act would be to put education into the hands of a body independent of government. There is so much talent and ability in this country that is being stifled, and that is partly because teachers in the state sector are not given the freedom to teach as they see fit. The joy of running an independent school is precisely that – independence. If all schools were enabled to take decisions in the best interests of their pupils, every child would benefit.

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