Catching up with the new headmaster of Malvern College

Sally Jones speaks to Keith Metcalfe, the new headmaster of Malvern College

Keith Metcalfe has taken over as headmaster of Malvern College, succeeding Antony Clark. He moved to the college from Harrow School, where he was deputy head.

Metcalfe has moved with his wife Clare, a photographer and their three young children.

One of his first excursions after arriving at the college was a brisk run over the Malvern Hills, befitting a man whose interest in sport saw him represent Cambridge University at both cricket and rugby.

“What first struck me about Malvern College, apart from its gracious buildings and glorious setting, is the friendliness and the genuine warmth with which the whole community welcomes outsiders and cares for one another,” said Metcalfe.

“Malvern is particularly strong in its pastoral support, and emphasis on the mental wellbeing of its pupils and staff; crucial in a rapidly-changing world, where young people face growing demands as well as undreamed of opportunities.”

From the archive: Keith Metcalfe’s predecessor at Malvern College, Antony Clark, reflects on his time in Worcestershire ahead of heading back to South Africa

“I’m impressed by the way the college encourages our students to build resilience, independence, the willingness to take calculated risks, and a sense of service to others,” he added. “These qualities are vital as they learn to negotiate the fast-moving global marketplace and the proliferation of technologies which are transforming everyone’s lives. They also help young people make mature, informed choices when confronted with ever-present temptations such as alcohol, cigarettes and drugs.

“My best moments at Harrow were all about the students. For example, when a recalcitrant teenage boy, who’d been finding something tough and kept getting it wrong, suddenly just ‘got it’ and realised that this was down to him, not his parents, and that he’d found something he really loved. Watching boys like that blossom, and gain in self-confidence that will stay with them for life, was hugely rewarding.

“Boarding gets a bad press, mainly from people who have not experienced it or visited a school like ours. Most of our students love it, though, and enjoy the sense of belonging to a community and the outstanding teaching and opportunities on offer. In families where parents are working long hours, boarding can give great stability and lifelong friendships. We also have wide experience in dealing with teenagers as individuals and see the whole picture, so any issues they might face tend to get flagged up early.”

Metcalfe with his wife and three children

Metcalfe added: “I say to parents ‘your child is probably the first teenager you’ve had to deal with; we’ve worked with hundreds’. Some parents are constantly involved from day one but, later, they’ll often say, ‘you absolutely understand how our child ticks, we’ll leave it up to you from now on’. That’s when we know we’re doing our job.

“At Malvern, the pupils come from a whole range of faiths and none. I’m from a Church of England background, but I believe it’s important for children – whatever their spiritual beliefs – to learn to think more deeply and philosophically about the big questions relating to their lives and society as a whole.

“Malvern College’s motto is ‘Sapiens qui prospicit’ – ‘Wise is the person who looks ahead’ – and, to me, that’s particularly relevant today. This school has a rich history and tremendous traditions, but also a sense of looking to the future, and asking ourselves where we’re going and how best we can prepare our outstanding young people to cope with all the adventures and challenges of modern life.”

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