James Murphy-O'Connor has been Headmaster of Prior Park College and Principal, Prior Park Schools, since 2009.
Who/what inspired you to become a teacher?
I went to school in London (St Benedict’s, Ealing) and I was inspired to become a teacher by a combination of the pastoral care offered to me by the monks and the Benedictan community and inspirational teaching. Some of this was thanks to the skill of the forward-looking teaching and some of it was in the inspirational message I heard about the joy of learning and the essence of what education truly means.
I come from a family which has seen generations of priests and doctors and I see teaching in a similar light; it is a vocational calling. I have been in education for 25 years next year and I have always loved the art of teaching – I am a History teacher.
What achievement are you most proud of as Head?
I am in my seventh year as Headmaster of Prior Park and I was handed a very precious gift from my predecessor; the College has outstanding pastoral care which is based on a Catholic, Christian Ethos where service to others and care, consideration and compassion are highly valued. I like to think that this legacy has been preserved and that the College is still known for these qualities.
Of course a school has to develop and we have been making some excellent additions; a new Art School, a new Sixth Form Centre, a new Girls’ House (because of growing numbers) and a new multi-million pound Sports Centre.
In 2016, we open a new Prior Park school which will overlook the Mediterranean! So lots of things to be proud of!
What does a successful school look like to you?
A school needs to know what it stands for and at Prior Park we are very clear about our values and our pastoral care and these are at the centre of our vision for the future. Prior Park is also known for excellence in many different areas of school life and we celebrate that diversity and breadth as an indicator of what education truly means; we are proud of our all-round nature as it means that students can pursue their passions in Music, Drama, Outdoor Education, Art, Sport etc to the highest levels of achievement.
We believe that the confidence gained from these support the student in their studies and we see excellent exam results, year-on-year as a consequence.
What is the most important quality you want every child to have when they leave your school? And why?
I want children to have a number of qualities because I sense that society will benefit from these. In particular we want our students to have a profound sense of service towards others so that they can bring their gifts and talents to their friends, family and to society in general.
We also want our students to have a sense of perspective in their lives. As a Catholic, Christian College, our students find this in their Faith. Many of our students are not Catholic but I believe that they all leave the College with an openness to Faith and all of our students have total respect for all the World Religions.
We want them to go from here with a clear sense of humility matched by their love of life! We want our students to be contributors; good social skills are just as important as excellent exam results.
Please give 5 words to describe the ethos of your school.
Service, Contribution, Care, Rounded, Ambitious.
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