Meet the Head: Dr Markus Bernhardt, Sherrardswood School, Welwyn
PUBLISHED: 16:12 19 January 2017 | UPDATED: 17:05 19 January 2017
The headteacher at the Welwyn independent discusses how new technology, patience, and the role of parents impact education
What ethos do you bring to the school & how would you describe your role?
My own ethos in education is to guide and nurture each individual pupil along his or her own personal and academic endeavour within a supportive and diverse community. To allow them to experience life to the full, now and in the future, our pupils need to be challenged on a daily basis. We provide an encouraging environment that ensures they grow in confidence and resilience throughout their journey.
On my first visit to Sherrardswood in 2015, I was both struck and delighted to observe the school’s ethos so closely aligned with my personal approach to education. Hence, my role is to take the school forward while duly preserving its values, identity and atmosphere.
What are the school’s greatest strengths?
Sherrardswood’s greatest strength is our close-knit community. We are unique in providing outstanding education for girls and boys from pre-school through to sixth-form on one site, achieving a genuine family atmosphere where all pupils and staff, prep and senior, know and value one another. However, this is not our only strength. In particular, smaller class sizes allow us to provide the individual attention that is paramount to fulfil the high expectations we have for all the pupils and their academic development.
What are the key factors in helping pupils to achieve their potential?
One key factor in helping pupils to achieve their academic potential is having dedicated staff who care for the individual, academically and as young and maturing personalities. We are responsible for educating and mentoring them to become confident, successful and valuable members not only of our community, but of society. However, the role of the family and home life cannot be overlooked. We expect our parents to be fully engaged in the educational process, through dialogue with our staff and, indeed, the child.
How has education changed during your career?
The only reliable constant in education seems to be the ever-current, ongoing changes – new governments that have a point to prove through reforms, new ideas resulting from research, and, for the past 10 years, electronic gadgets and apps.
For a young headmaster such as myself, I find that parents tend to expect me to embrace all things new and electronic, so I have often, and somewhat unexpectedly, found myself promoting and defending practices that have stood the test of time. A tablet certainly has a place in the classroom, as a calculator has done for much longer, but knowing one’s times tables and gaining a pen licence have educational value reaching far further than merely ending up with the right words or numbers.
What are the challenges facing your school & education in general?
Changes in education often mirror changes in society, and with these changes invariably arise new challenges. Today, we live in a world in which immediate results have become a widespread common expectation and therefore an immense pressure on all members of society, including our children. It is important that we continue to value education and the process of growing up as the journey it is. A journey of success and failure. A journey that requires effort, diligence, high standards set by example, continuously instilled confidence, and most of all, patience. There is no quick fix in education.
Lockleys, Welwyn AL6 0BJ
How old is the school? 88 years
Fee paying? yes
How many students? 350
Single sex or mixed? co-ed
What age range? two-18