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Friday Feature: Mr John Towers

17th March 2023

Mr John Towers joins Barrow Hills as the new Head in September 2023 from Homefield Prep where he is currently Headmaster. He has over 30 years experience in the education sector following degrees in history and in Mathematics Education. He has been a Head in two schools, leading his first to be judged ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted and under his leadership, Homefield has been rated ‘excellent’ across both academic achievement and pastoral development in the latest ISI inspection. Parents speak of John’s strong connection with the children and credit him with making it both a highly successful school and a happy one.

Please give us a brief introduction to who you are, your background and interests etc.

I’ve been privileged to lead successful schools in the independent, state and international charity sectors. I have also worked at scale, as both a consultant and a director of schools. But, over 30 years ago, this all started as a teacher of Year 1 and so my heart is still very much in the primary classroom. I particularly enjoy teaching History and Maths and I’ve a real commitment to creativity within schools, as a Fellow and Trustee of the Royal Society of the Arts.

I’m a proud father and my two children, Oscar and Imogen, are now going through their  college years. My partner Stef will be with me at Barrow Hills. To keep some balance in life, I also make time for my racing bike, gym, paddleboard and walking Mr Chops the spaniel.

I grew up in Manchester, attending St Ambrose College on a scholarship. I have both English and Irish passports, thanks to my family roots.

Why Barrow Hills and the Bridewell Schools Foundation?

The brief for Barrow Hills was alluring, with a call to arms for a head to ‘achieve even greater success’ in a school ‘for life’.  Particularly appealing, for me, was the potential for service within a family-oriented prep supported by the collegiality of Bridewell. I was ‘all in’ after my first proper visit to the School and the opportunity to spend quality time with the children and the staff. Have you ever had a feeling you were absolutely destined to be present in a particular time and space? It was a palpable sensation.

I was really impressed the overarching mission of Bridewell. It dovetails nicely with work I’ve done with IAPS and HMC schools on widening bursaries. It is so important to be lined up with the ethics and character of the foundation you will champion.

What is your vision for Barrow Hills?

After the challenges of recent years I’m sure that the community seeks a reassuring steer from a head well accustomed to operating with both confidence and care. I  look forward to aligning with stakeholders, to develop a measured, yet innovative plan for Barrow Hills to build upon its existing strengths. Three areas come to mind initially: The setting is magical, and developing our provision to make the very best of that will stimulate happy children with fond memories for life. The new partnership with KES is a distinction to build upon, to provide a range of resources to enhance the achievement of our children. Finally, it’s all about the people. This will be my third headship. In my first two I learnt that success is largely down to culture, just as much as strategy, and so invested deeply in my teams.

Tell us more about your time as a Head at Homefield Prep and your deep commitment to ecology and the initiatives you introduced there to support this

Across the last decade I dedicated myself to moving a 4-13 prep from ‘good to great’, as well as delivering on an innovative rebuild of the estate. Sustainability was a key driver on a complete re-development to celebrate our 150 year anniversary. Everything from a ‘living roof’ to ecologically considered heating and ventilation systems represented a real investment of care.  In fact, the project created 10% more green space for our students to enjoy, a very worthwhile outcome in an urban London landscape.

I hope another legacy lies in the outcomes of our curriculum. My mission was to ‘go deeper’, be that in developing critical thinking or in the soft skills over collaboration.  In an age of narrowing expectations around 11+, you have to be brave about breadth! My older students now do very well with exams and schools of choice. That is not down to ‘hot-housing’, it is because they love learning and feel happy and safe. They have benefited from a generous education of head, hand and heart.

Anything else you’d like to share with our community?

As part of my Barrow Hills interview I took a school assembly. I understand this has been much talked about by the students!  The large basket I brought, containing my treasure from the tropics,  (for I used to build and run schools in rural India) was not a king cobra or even baby tiger as some had guessed, but was finally revealed as a humble coconut. A good assembly is just like a good lesson, you have to hook interest, bring some passion to it and perhaps have some fun, to help create a memorable take away.

I will be attending the School regularly over the next two terms, to get teed up for September.  So, I will look forward to conversing with you, to really appreciate the unique Barrow Hills and Bridewell community and to ensure we can build upon what is most valued.

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