I started at Trinity School in 2016, so this is my fifth year. I was previously a deputy master at Dulwich College. As head, my key aims have been to increase our ability to fund places for more children, to connect with schools and parents in our locality to build their understanding of our bursarial provision, and to bring as many parents and children unfamiliar with private education through our doors to meet our students and teachers and to use our facilities.
Building awareness of bursarial provision
There are barriers we need to tackle for families with no experience of private education – primarily, that their child can feel he or she can belong and thrive here. Before they apply, we want our culture to feel familiar to them.
We are fortunate in that, ethnically, our student body reflects our local area of south London, with around 35% of students from a black, Asian and minority ethnic background. The school has also been co-educational in the sixth form since 2011.
That said, it is our students, led by staff, who make our community most welcoming. I think our first role is to agree that it is everyone’s responsibility to be empathetic, to pass this from one generation of students to the next, and to celebrate this when it is done well.
We believe that there is an important attitude to cultivate, which shapes the whole school community: are our students ready to give as much as they take? We hope they will be surprised by how much they enjoy serving the community, and that this is a habit that will stay with them long after they leave school.
If students see it as normal and rewarding to think nothing is beneath them – whether that is cleaning their changing room, mentoring a younger student or visiting residents in a local care home – then great things follow. They can be excellent but not elitist, ambitious but not pretentious, and deliberately inclusive rather than exclusive.
There are also lots of ways in which we have worked with other schools or brought a wider community onto our site. First, there is our partnership with a local foundation, whereby we teach 70 children from local primary schools each Saturday morning at Trinity.
This extends the children and prepares boys and girls for an application to a selective school, either grammar or independent at 11+, in circumstances in which their primary school does not have the resources to provide dedicated preparation.
Second, we have employed PE specialists to offer a programme of lessons to children in a number of local primary schools. These individuals also provide staff training in sports teaching, which will impact more children. In the last three years, some 3,000 children have been part of this programme.
The importance of socio-economic diversity
It is a particular problem that private school fees are out of reach for over 90% of the national population.
Establishing socio-economic diversity in our school matters. Equally, there are structural inequalities as a result of race and gender differences which our students need to explore and understand.
Whilst we will choose to focus on particular priorities at certain times – something that is helpful in terms of concentrating on specific actions – the overall approach has to be intersectional. Our students are quick to see that prejudice can be expressed in many ways – tackling one issue has to mean tackling all of them.
We are immensely fortunate in that we have found that the socio-economic and ethnic mix of our school is one of its greatest strengths. Our students have an amazing opportunity to learn from each other. This benefits the ethos of the whole school; it impacts powerfully the values and attitudes of every student.
A particular priority this year is to understand race, prejudice and privilege better, and for our students and staff to know what it means to be an anti-racist school. This takes careful listening first and foremost, and some honest recognition of where we may have not got things right. To this end, we use the wide range of experiences that our students and staff can bring.
Learning to celebrate community cohesion
Ultimately, we are focused on the kind of young people that our students become, and what they choose to do with their gifts and opportunities.
The broader their experience of working across socio-economic and ethnic differences, and the more they connect with the world outside their school, the more ready they will be to create and enjoy communities when they leave us.
Trinity School and bursaries
● Trinity was previously a direct grant school and benefited from the assisted places scheme
● Out of its 1,000 students, 170 have a bursary
● The school is fundraising towards a goal of one in five – over 200 students – being supported by a bursary
● Bursary applications at 11+ have doubled in the last four years
● Adding in scholarships, about half of Trinity’s students have fee support