Senior students interview education chief and alumnus Sir Tim Brighouse

Posted on: September 9, 2014

Last week we welcomed Sir Tim to the academy. Head Boy Ryan Hawkins and Senior House Team Leader Jo Flatt caught up with educationalist Tim and had the pleasure of interviewing him in the library. To view the full-length interview please visit Ormiston Denes Academy’s YouTube channel:

Sir Tim was former Schools’ Commissioner for London up until 2007, and was knighted in 2009 for his educational achievements.

Sir Tim talked about many things, recollecting his days as a student at what was then Lowestoft Grammar School. He recalled an occasion when he was Head Boy. “One winter I was in a very small room. I was throwing snowballs out of the window at passers-by and the Deputy Headteacher walked in. He took me to the Headteacher whose study was in the Entrance Hall. The Head emerged with his cane, but when he saw that it was his Head Boy he told me I had to do a detention on Saturday, along with everybody elses!”

When asked if that was one of the naughtiest things he did in school he said: “Well, it’s the only one I’ll own up to!”

Tim told Ryan and Jo that he enjoyed History the most. He said he also enjoyed English and wanted to be a Journalist on the Lowestoft Journal until he decided it would be more worthwhile to him to become a teacher.

Sir Tim told us that at the end of his time at school he worked for Bird’s Eye, bringing in peas. He also had a job as a waiter at the Suffolk Hotel.

We also learned of Sir Tim’s most memorable person. Tim said: “I owe so much to a man called Harry Ray who was a headteacher and is involved in teacher training. I met him in his mid 30s and knew him until he died. He had an amazing career when he was a teacher. He was also a pacifist during the war, and an SOE (Special Operations Executive) and supported the Resistance in France. This was a person who lived two lives really – this one that he didn’t speak of and the other being that of a brilliant educator and communicator who filled me with enthusiasm to make the world a better place.”

Mrs Erb, Senior Assistant Principal, Director of Learning for Inspire House, said: ”It was wonderful to welcome Sir Tim Brighouse back to the Denes to inspire our students and staff alike. Ryan and Jo asked a range of perceptive and challenging questions which Tim responded  through recalling personal anecdotes and warm memories of his time at the Denes.”

Ryan told me that he “definitely learnt from my chat with Sir Tim. I’m calling it a ‘chat’ as opposed to an interview because that’s what it was – despite the fact that we supposedly grilled him, he was very easy-going, down-to-earth and generally easy to have a conversation with. He was also very self-deprecating as well, making out as if his own achievements in life paled into insignificance compared with others that he’d met, which made him easy to associate with. So much so, in fact, he even said he couldn’t understand why he was given a knighthood – he just didn’t see what it was he’d done that was so brilliant!”

Jo added: “His mannerisms and tone of voice made you want to sit there and listen to more. As he spoke about his career, it was obvious he loved his job and found it a privilege to have this line of work. However, he also seemed to like the idea of retirement! He also gave helpful advice to me and Ryan about our future careers and hoped for us the best in years to come. It was a good experience and I’m pleased I agreed to interview Sir Brighouse.”

Tim told me he was “hugely impressed by the humour, charm and ability of the two students who interviewed me and I have no doubt that they will have successful careers. I was impressed too by the energy and commitment of the staff. I would be delighted to have my children and grandchildren at the school.”