Meet the Head: A Q&A with Mark Scholey, Headmaster, Sutton Valence Preparatory School
Set to take the helm at Sutton Valence Preparatory School this coming September, Mark Scholey talks all things leadership, ambitions and exciting future opportunities with insideKENT
Tell us about your leadership style.
Leadership comes in many guises, and for me it is as much about service and stewardship as it is about formulating strategy and decision making. If I had to characterise my style, it would be a blend of having high expectations with empowering others. I would never expect anyone to do something that I would not be prepared to do myself and I will try to foster a culture where everyone is proud of their role and we all learn from each other.
What are your ambitions for Sutton Valence Preparatory School?
My ambitions are first and foremost to get to know the community better and then to find ways to nurture that network to make the greatest possible positive differences for the children and our community.
What are the greatest challenges facing head teachers today?
One of the greatest challenges, irrespective of the profession, is to make sustainable decisions which will stand the test of time and empower future generations. How to navigate this landscape with optimism and hope is absolutely critical, especially when teaching and communicating with children.
What has mattered to you most during your years as a teacher?
It sounds rather obvious, but it has to be that children matter the most. Seeing children and their families achieve feats that they might not once have believed possible is the greatest privilege and motivation. It is the reason I became a teacher.
What would you say are the main challenges currently facing the independent sector?
Affordability would feature highly, with the cost of living and government policy both being realities to be faced with integrity and focus. Not unrelatedly, I think sometimes negative perceptions of what the independent sector is and who it serves are also challenges. Most of the families I have served make significant sacrifices to send their children to independent schools and all of them simply want the best for their children. Communicating this with conviction and empathy is fundamental to the sector and to society too.
What makes a great learner?
I have three ‘rules’ which I always talk to my five-year-old son about: be kind; try your best; and ask questions. Or, for my slightly older nieces, nephews and godchildren: be kind; be passionate; and be curious. A great learner must be passionate and curious, and for me being kind, including to oneself, is the most important rule of them all. And if this can be done with a smile on one’s face, so much the better!
How do you make sure you and your fellow teachers get the most out of every pupil at Sutton Valence Preparatory School?
First and foremost, each member of staff needs to get to know each child and each family. Only by doing so can learning be planned, delivered and evaluated. But even more fundamentally than that, only by getting to know each individual will each child feel truly safe and supported and ready to take the next steps, and hopefully even a few risks, with their learning.
What are your professional goals for the foreseeable future?
I am an avid reader and lifelong learner. I know I will be learning a lot in the next few weeks and months and, far from daunting me, that excites me. Embodying the excitement that comes from learning, and the humility of not knowing, is part and parcel of being a good teacher and I hope to model that to children, staff and parents.