An Interview with the new Headteacher at the Kings of Wessex Academy

The Spring term this year saw the interview and appointment of a new Headteacher at the Kings of Wessex Academy in Cheddar. The successful applicant takes over from outgoing Executive Headteacher Mr. Gavin Ball who will now focus his duties on the role of Chief Executive of the Trust. The appointment follows two days of interviews involving governors, trustees, students and staff; and saw Mr. Dave Wiltshire selected for the role. We met up with Mr. Wiltshire to discuss his appointment and plans for the future.

We met Mr. Wiltshire, currently Deputy Head at Norton Hill School in Midsomer Norton, on a sunny Monday morning as he visited the school for the first time since his appointment. Although the stress of the interviews was now behind him, he said it felt slightly surreal being back and thinking “I’m going to be Head here in September!” Nevertheless, he was clearly excited by the challenges and opportunities he now had open to him.

In his current role, Mr. Wiltshire has gained a lot of experience in all areas of school life – from classroom teaching, to curriculum and pastoral work – giving him a great breadth of knowledge to bring to Kings’ Headship. He has also been heavily involved in Norton Hill’s own Multi Academy Trust, making him the ideal candidate for working within our own group of schools. 

He tells us however, that he’s not always been a teacher; and indeed that earlier in his life it was something that he never thought he’d end up doing:

“My parents were teachers” he tells us, “so I swore blind it was never something I’d go into!” 

In this vain after finishing school, Mr. Wiltshire studied Biochemistry in Aberystwyth and went on to have a successful career in the wine trade. Although a seemingly unconnected industry to education, Mr. Wiltshire says that in the modern educational climate he believes his background in business will serve him well:

“The landscape of education has changed a lot since I went to school, and it’s definitely a lot more about business now”.

After several successful years however, and despite the obvious perks of the job, Mr. Wiltshire decided that his calling was to be in education. “Seeing my mum so enthused by teaching really inspired me” he said; and this change of heart led Mr. Wiltshire to return to university to retrain.

His education career has obviously gone well and seen him move ‘through the ranks’ to now achieve his lifelong goal of becoming a Head. Despite this however, having studied biochemistry at university, he tells us that even now there’s nothing he likes more than getting into the classroom and teaching a science lesson, and seeing the impact that you can have on a child’s life. He has huge admiration for the incredible work teachers do, and truly believes it’s one of the best jobs in the world.

Our discussion moved on to ask what it was about Kings which made him want to apply here. 

“I’m not the sort of person to ‘scattergun’ applications”, he says initially, “a school has got to be right for me, and Kings just seemed perfect … being able to follow on from Mr. Ball’s strong leadership, working within the Trust and with the other schools, being in such a wonderful location … everything about Kings was right!”

He goes on to liken the application process to that of buying a new house: “there are certain non-negotiables – that might be four bedrooms, or having a double garage – well for me, Kings had that double garage! It ticked all my boxes”.

And now he’s secured the role of Headteacher, Mr. Wiltshire’s visibly excited about his first day in September and what the future will hold for him and the school. He notes how he looks forward to be working with Mr. Ball to continue the work he’s done, as well more than anything else to get out into the school and talk to teachers and students about what they want.

“I want to be visible and approachable when I join the team in September, and to really be able to sit down with staff and students and discuss their needs and what they’re looking for from me”. 

“Every school has its own ethos and its own way of working, and I think it’s really important to not just come straight in with lots of changes, but to spend some time really getting to understand what makes the school ‘tick’ so that I can work in the same way and help the school grow in the areas that matter to it the most”.

“I think it could take a few weeks before I’m truly settled in and understanding exactly what Kings ‘is’, but I believe it’s very important to take that time so that we’re all ‘reading from the same hymn sheet’, as it were”.

Mr. Wiltshire’s also looking forward to getting to know Cheddar itself, having not been to the area so much before, and certainly the area has a lot to offer him. Mr. Wiltshire is a self-confessed ‘outdoorsy’ type who when not working loves to be out in nature (indeed, just the day before our interview, he had completed the Bath Half Marathon in a very respectable two hours and seven minutes!)

In particular however his big hobby is fly fishing, and when not working Mr. Wiltshire can often be found around Salisbury spending many a day on the water’s edge, honing his technique and enjoying the fresh air. Even here though he still can’t escape education’s call and will regularly accompany other fly fishers as their teacher to share his skills and show them the tricks of the trade. 

We finished our interview talking about Mr. Wiltshire’s own school days and how it has shaped his career as a teacher. For one, he tells us he really loved school and believes that every child school should be the best years of their life. In particular Mr. Wiltshire was a keen rugby player – but not just for the thrill of playing, but also because he loved the team spirit which the game mandated. He says that being able to work together, and to see the effectiveness of doing so in victory has made him realise the importance of teamwork now in his adult life – and particularly as a Head.

His enjoyment of school, and his passion for education is something he really hopes to inspire in his own students, and he tells us that “even on difficult days, I’m going to be proud to be there, talking to students, and staff, and parents; and doing all that I can to make things good for them”.

It’s safe to say that Mr. Wiltshire cannot wait to take up his role at the Kings of Wessex, and likewise we can’t wait to see him in post and how he chooses to shape the school in the years to come. Although right now we live through strange times, with schools facing unprecedented challenges in the face of Coronavirus, it is greatly comforting to know that there will remain a strong hand on the tiller at Kings as we move towards September and beyond.