Mr Ayres has been the Headmaster at Thorpe House School in Gerrards Cross for five years. He is driven by a desire to provide young people with the very best learning opportunities and in his time at Thorpe House he has introduced, amongst numerous other things, a new ‘one year ahead’ curriculum which focuses on engaging young people through practical learning experiences. Above all things he believes that academic rigour should be delivered with a sense of fun and humour and has introduced a number of initiatives that bring learning to life.
What’s a ‘normal’ school day for you?
I arrive around 6:45am to open up the main buildings of our school. I then create my daily ‘to-do’ list and check if I have any pressing emails to deal with. At 8am I meet with my Senior Leadership Team over coffee to discuss their particular departments, the boys and the school as a whole. Mornings consist of completing paperwork, meeting with staff members, prospective parents and boys, break duties, learning walks and strategic planning. The afternoons are a continuation of this, though on Tuesday’s and Thursday’s I lead assemblies. After school is often taken up with meetings until I leave at around 6:30pm.
What sets Thorpe School apart from other schools in the area?
We are the only all through boys’ school in the area, educating boys from 3 all the way through to 16. We focus on delivering learning in a manner that is best suited to the way boys learn best, which for us means making it as engaging and interactive as possible.
How does technology make teaching more simple or difficult?
Technology has meant we need to approach teaching differently; now we need to focus on interpretation of knowledge rather than its accumulation. My school days consisted of lessons where the teacher’s knowledge was communicated and we consolidated it through research and written work. Back then knowledge was difficult to obtain from any other source than a teacher, a text book or the Encyclopedia Britannica. Our young people live in a generation of ‘fake news’ which is accessed at a touch of a button on a phone or tablet; knowledge is easy to come by but it is often tainted. The new challenge for schools and universities is to develop a new skill set in our young people so they are taught that technology provides us with quick answers to our questions but they are not always the correct ones.
What are your views on co-ed versus single sex education?
No one child is the same so why should they all be taught in the same environment? Some young people flourish in single sex environments, others in co-ed. My daughters were educated in co-educational environments and they achieved exceptionally well. My son is in a single sex school and it has provided him with the academic challenge and sporting opportunities that are allowing him to fulfil his potential.
What inspires you?
Young people’s breathtaking ability to forgive, find the beauty in everyday life and to question the simplest of things that inspire thought and contemplation.
What’s been your greatest success since becoming the head of Thorpe?
There have been a great number of achievements I have been very proud of but I think creating an engaging learning environment that values each student for their individual merit and enables them to fulfil their potential, tops them all!
If you could pass on any wisdom to your students, what would you share?
My favourite PE teacher wrote the book on sporting clichés and his most popular saying related to football and having a shot on goal. He told us that ‘you don’t win the raffle if you don’t buy a ticket’, which I something I agree wholeheartedly with. Opportunities in life come thick and fast when you are young and I always encourage my students to grasp every single one that comes their way; if you don’t take the risk you lose the chance!
Which part of the Chilterns do you live in? Chalfont St Peter.
What do you love most about where you live? Great links to Central London.
What’s a typical Saturday night like for you? Great food, good music, an engaging book and match of the day!
Favourite way to relax? Going to the cinema.
One thing on your bucket list? Visiting the Sanctuaires Notre-Dame de Lourdes in southwestern France.
To find out more about Thorpe House join the boys, Mr Ayres and his staff for open morning on Tuesday 5th March, 09.30 – 11.30 (whole school). Booking encouraged via thorpehouse.co.uk/admissions/upcoming-open-mornings/#registration. You can also find out more via their socials, @thorpehousesch (Facebook, Twitter and Instagram).