Calling the tune
PUBLISHED: 09:46 12 May 2015 | UPDATED: 09:46 12 May 2015
Copyright (c) 2013 by Richard Blaxall (Guava Images). All rights reserved.
Alexander Mitchell may have enjoyed a career as the conductor of an orchestra or choir. Instead, as headmaster of Holmwood House in Colchester, he orchestrates an all-round education for pupils at this boarding preparatory school. Words by Nicky Adams
If you hadn’t become a teacher, what career would you have chosen instead?
An ideal alternative lifestyle might have been as a choral and orchestral conductor, with a bit of Nat King Cole and Frank Sinatra karaoke on the side.
Who would you most like to have as a pupil, if you could pick anyone?
Sir Ken Robinson, the author, speaker and international advisor on education in the arts. He is one of my educational heroes.
Was there any type of school dinner that you couldn’t stand?
For me it was rice pudding.
What was your least favourite lesson?
Honestly, I can’t really think of anything that negatively, other than circuit training. I loved music, maths, economics and drama. My favourite sport at school was volleyball.
If you were Prime Minister for one day, what would be the first thing you’d do?
In the same way the Bank of England was given autonomy from the government in 1997, I would remove direct political involvement from the Department for Education. For too long, and particularly so in recent decades, education has been a political football with widely opposing ideas being introduced, not only at the point of government change, but at the whim of each and every secretary of state keen to make their mark along the way. The result of this on the world of education has been very damaging and this is most certainly not a strategic way to develop children’s learning.
Which record would you want with you if you were marooned on a desert island?
Either a Nat King Cole album or a box set of Bach’s St Matthew Passion. I have eclectic tastes.
What would you want to make disappear from this world?
Narrow, self-serving views of the world in which we live.
Is there a television programme that you make sure you never miss?
It used to be Spooks, but that’s gone now. I do love the blind audition stages of The Voice. To be honest, I could live without TV, but could not live without Radio 4.
What is your favourite film of all time and why?
The Glenn Miller Story is very much up there, but a recent visit to the cinema with my children does place Paddington pretty high up the list too.
How do you relax away from work?
I love reading. My favourite author is John Irving and my favourite of his books is A Prayer for Owen Meany. I also enjoy our family holidays in Europe; city breaks are my favourite.
What is special about your school?
Achieving the right mix of rest, work and play is rare in a school. At Holmwood, each of these elements is a crucial ingredient in what is a truly all-round school; where children love to achieve, rise to the challenge of competition and enjoy the camaraderie of their friends and teachers. Every day I am reminded of what an incredibly special experience our children enjoy.
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