Meet the Head

Bishop's Stortford College

Bishop's Stortford College - Credit: Archant

Headmaster of Bishop’s Stortford College Jeremy Gladwin gave up the idea of studying to be a barrister in favour of geography and teaching. He says, ‘I still wear the black gown four times a week, but I haven’t yet found the need to wear a wig!’

Jeremy Gladwin

Jeremy Gladwin - Credit: Ian Taylor

If you hadn’t become a teacher, what career would you have chosen?

Before going on my gap year to New Zealand in 1980, I had a place at university to read law. I intended to be a barrister as a result of being entranced by an armed robbery trial I witnessed at the Old Bailey. I wanted to be the man in the funny wig and the black gown. But I loved teaching so much that prior to starting at Durham I arranged to change degrees from law to geography in order to be able to share my love of geography.

Was there a school dinner you couldn’t stand?

This would have to be either gristly meat (a staple of 1960s and 70s school food) or tapioca – we called it frogspawn. Do they still even sell this grim pudding?

If you were Prime Minister for a day, what would be the first thing you’d do?

I’d instruct the Education Secretary to halve the pace of change in GCSE and A Level to allow one to bed in before changing the other - and this in proper consultation with the profession. Could they please give teachers the chance to get to grips with one initiative before piling more on? Is it any wonder that heads are leaving the profession in large numbers? They are on initiative overload.

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What would be your Desert Island disc?

It would be between two probably. I am a former cathedral chorister (Worcester) and love sacred choral music. My favourite is Vierne’s Messe Solonnelle. For that chill-out moment, it has to be the slow movement of Shostakovich’s 2nd Piano Concerto – it’s simply sublime.

What’s your favourite film?

I don’t have a favourite, I like so many different genres. The most powerful film I have seen has to be Schindler’s List. For years I would not watch any films based on the Holocaust, because I can’t cope with this period of history – it is so incomprehensible in its sheer horror. However, I was persuaded to join a school trip to Poland and was told that I had to prepare myself. We visited the Imperial War Museum exhibition, I read Primo Levi and I watched The Pianist, The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas and Schindler’s List. When I sat at Auschwitz/Birkenau, looking down the infamous railway line to that iconic gatehouse, through which millions of Jews and other Nazi victims passed on their way to the gas chambers, I was taken back to the film and I just sat and cried. Sentimental probably, but that visit was perhaps one of the most powerful and amazing school trips I have been on. I think everyone should go there once. And once is all it will be for me.

How do you relax away from work?

I try and go once a week to Evensong at St John’s College, Cambridge. This is ‘me’ time, time out from the hustle and bustle of the busy life of a big school. Sometimes I just fall asleep; other times I drift away to another place listening to what must be one of the best choirs in the country. Having recently completed a MEd in Educational Leadership at Cambridge, I have fallen in love with this beautiful city, which has become something of a second home. Dinner at one of the colleges afterwards is the perfect end to the day.

What’s special about your school?

The college is the most wonderful community of adults and children from the age of four upwards. The children are so purposeful and successful without ever displaying a hint of arrogance. People really care for one another, whether staff or pupils, and this is quite simply the happiest school I have been associated with. It is my great privilege to lead the three schools – pre-prep, prep and senior school – that comprise Bishop’s Stortford College.

Did you know?

We are sometimes known as the ‘School for Spies’. The college has produced seven senior members of the intelligence services, including two heads of MI5, (one of whom, Sir Dick White, became the first person also to head MI6), the head of the Foreign Office and two deputy directors of MI5, including Peter Wright, author of Spycatcher. He was the agent who the Thatcher government failed to gag - he proudly told of how in the 1950s, the service ‘bugged and burgled our way across London at the state’s behest, while pompous civil servants in Whitehall pretended to look the other way.’ I have yet to work out why the school has produced so many possessors of state secrets, but it’s a fascinating fact.

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