Interview with the new Headmaster
Mark Dixon has joined the Royal Alexandra and Albert School as Headmaster from September 2016. Mr Dixon, who replaces Paul Spencer Ellis who retired in the summer, was Deputy Head of Bancroft’s School in Essex.
Mr Dixon was interviewed about his new role.
Interviewer: What were your first impressions of the Royal Alexandra and Albert School?
Mr Dixon: I immediately felt the warmth of the community and the confidence and cheerfulness of the pupils. It brightened up my day as I walked around the campus.
Interviewer: What made you accept the job?
Mr Dixon: The warmth of the community as I mentioned before but also the natural inquisitiveness of the pupils. I walked into Rank Weston, the junior boarding house, and was bowled over by the excitement, the desire to learn and sense of purpose of the boys and girls. The staff were motivated and there was excellent team spirit. The house had a busy but calm atmosphere and I could visualise myself being part of the school.
Interviewer: What are your plans for the future?
Mr Dixon: There is a lot of talk of grammar schools in the news following recent announcements by the Government. I can say now, that this school will not become a grammar school. Our unique community is based around a comprehensive intake and I want to ensure all children, whatever their academic ability, have access to the opportunities we offer.
At a more detailed level, we have a large school roll and I want to develop more facilities for sport. We need more pitches for more teams. At the moment we have some B teams but I would like to see more B teams and even some C teams. I know our pupils are keen to play more sport and staff enjoy coaching them.
We have a growing Sixth Form and I am working on a plan to increase the academic and boarding provision for Sixth Formers.
I would like to support pupils’ thirst for knowledge by investing in our library and online learning resources.
Interviewer: What do you think are the greatest challenges ahead?
Mr Dixon: Continuing to make sure there is adequate aspiration, challenge and support for pupils to maximise their academic progress and personal development. We have a wide range of abilities in this school and our pupils make excellent progress. This is backed up by our Progress 8 score (the new government measure of value added) which shows our pupils make significantly better progress than the national average. The challenge is to maintain this whilst providing a broad and balanced curriculum. We have developed a vision of the attributes our pupils should have and I aim to embed this vision throughout the school community so that all our pupils have these attributes when they leave this school.
Interviewer: What do you think makes your school special?
Mr Dixon: I can’t think of a more diverse and comprehensive school than this. We have pupils from all walks of life. There are local children as well as children from Europe and the rest of the world. There are pupils whose family can afford independent school but choose to send their child here, and others whose places are funded by charities. We have a mix of ages, genders and ethnicities and everyone works and lives together as a diverse and vibrant and community.
This school is unique as local pupils can join boarders and stay for the extended day. All pupils can take advantage of the many opportunities on offer with our co-curricular programme. Over 150 activities are available every week and these include sport, cooking, horse riding, music, cadets, drama and academic support. There are some unusual ones including Octopush, Sugar Craft, Pickleball, Fencing and Lego Club.
Interviewer: What subject do you teach? Do you teach now?
Mr Dixon: I teach Physics and Maths and I always will. As the Headmaster of the school I think it is important that I lead as a teacher. I want this school to have outstanding teaching and it starts with me leading from the front. There is also the point that I just love teaching.