From leading one of the county's most prestigious independent schools to keeping fit by running with his dog, David Morton from The King's School Gloucester has an incredibly busy schedule.
He took some time out of his day to chat to SoGlos about his plans for the school in 2024; what's happening in the education sector as a whole; and what changes may be coming in the year ahead.
What does 2024 have in store for The King’s School Gloucester?
2024 looks like being another exciting year — there is always lots going on at King’s. In the classroom the teachers are continuing to deliver brilliant, inspiring lessons, whilst there is a huge array of co-curricular activities available outside the classroom.
This term alone, we have a Public Speaking Competition, ski trip to Italy, the House Music Competition, masses of hockey and netball fixtures, we welcome students from our sister school in Japan for a cultural exchange, as well as seeing our new netball Nova Academy taking off in a big way.
Do you anticipate any key changes in the education sector in 2024?
I am sure that all sorts of promises will be made by the main political parties in the run-up to the election. However, the key challenges will remain for both the independent and local authority sector: a teacher recruitment crisis; squeezed budgets; pupils struggling with school attendance; a teenage mental health crisis; and the perennial need to drive down class sizes so that each child can achieve their best.
I consider myself truly fortunate to lead a school that is thriving in such difficult times, but there should be no under-estimating the challenge that all school leaders face at present.
What do you think of the current government’s education policies?
We haven’t seen much to encourage us in recent years, I am afraid. Some rather lofty aims — such as the Advanced British Standard — seem disconnected with the reality that we see in schools up and down the country. It has been good recently to see more funding promised for state schools, but it will take years to turn these funds into better facilities and more, high-quality teachers for our children.
With a general election imminent, do you think a Labour government would be good for education — or for the wider community?
A Labour government will be constrained by the same national financial challenges as the Conservative one has been, and they don’t seem to have any significant new ideas.
The Labour Party’s one educational promise — that they will add VAT onto independent school fees — seems ill-considered and based more on an attempt to win votes than to improve our education system.
At King’s, for example, we offer a range of generous bursaries to talented local children who are incredible choristers, great sports players or bright students — if our parents’ or our school’s finances are squeezed, these pupils will flood into state schools instead. By the time the damage is done, a new political party may well be in power.
The King’s School does a lot of charity and voluntary work in Gloucester — will this continue in 2024?
I am really proud of everything that we do for our local community. Many people don’t realise that King’s is one of the country’s oldest charities and that we therefore place great importance on helping the wider community as well as educating our students.
We will keep working with The Venture and the Gloucester City HAF to provide activities and food for local children and their families throughout 2024.
We delivered a huge load of gifts and food to Gloucester Feed The Hungry before Christmas and we will keep supporting Hashim and the team there. We have an exciting Primary Schools’ Science Challenge Day later this term which we are delivering with the team at Bloodhound Education, too — I am sure we’ll find some budding engineers of the future there!
Do you have a New Year’s Resolution?
I am not a huge fan of New Year’s Resolutions because I think we can all aim to improve ourselves throughout the year and any new challenge has to be sustainable in the long-term.
That said, I am determined to keep up my regular fitness activities, such as running with my dog, Pip, or mountain-biking in the Forest of Dean with my friends — no matter how busy the diary gets.
Along with King's regular Open Mornings, David Morton is always happy to meet families for a coffee and a chat, followed by a tour of the school. To find out more, visit thekingsschool.co.uk.