New headteacher at Hornchurch secondary school looks forward to the challenge of ‘fulfilling its potential’

Sanders School's new headteacher Stuart Brooks, centre, with student presidents Sophie Collard, Tyre

Sanders School's new headteacher Stuart Brooks, centre, with student presidents Sophie Collard, Tyrese Ryan, Jessica Carvalho and Funmi Lawal. Photo: Matt Clemenson - Credit: Archant

The newly-appointed headteacher of a Hornchurch secondary school has vowed to strengthen links to the local community and keep up a strong record of good exam results.

From a field of 21 candidates, Stuart Brooks was named the new headteacher of the school in Suttons Lane “after impressing recruiters with his drive and ambitions for the school”.

Mr Brooks is currently deputy head at School 21 in Newham, which was judged Outstanding at its recent Ofsted inspection, but has strong links to Havering.

He told the Recorder: “I’ve lived in Havering for the last 16 years of my life, my wife is a teacher at another school in the borough and one of my children goes to school here – the other will when he is old enough.

“I understand the strength of feeling within communities here and that is one of the reasons why I’ve built my life here.”

And community is a word that Mr Brooks puts right at the heart of his approach to leading a school, and Sanders’ relationship with the community around it in Hornchurch was a large factor in making the school an attractive prospect.

“That is one of the things that impressed me most about this school as we went through the interview stage,” he said.

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“I found out that they’d even sent some of their classes out to deliver hot cross buns to some of our neighbours and I just think that’s such a good way to keep up that relationship between the people that live here and the pupils we educate here.

“A school is one of the key focal points of a community and I think it is really important that there is awareness within the school of the part we play.”

Currently, Sanders School is rated Requires Improvement by Ofsted, but last summer enjoyed its most successful GCSE results to date.

That momentum is something Mr Brooks is keen to build upon, but was quite clear the school under his leadership would not become “a good grades factory” where more emphasis was put on passing exams than on fully supporting the children.

“This is a school with enormous potential and one of the things I found most promising about the entire application process was that children were actually involved in it,” Mr Brooks, who will take up his post full-time from September, said.

“I had to give a presentation to a group of children and I admit I was actually a little bit nervous but it seems to have gone well!”

So, if he had to boil his approach to education down to just three principles, what would they be?

“Safety – I think the first thing is that we as teachers create an environment where the children feel safe, but also in that we have to establish to them ways for them to remain safe in the future. When you’re dealing with children I think that is fundamental.

“Secondly is the need for teachers to create an appetite for learning within the children they teach – I believe it’s important for them to want to ask ‘why’ and to really have that hunger to learn and try new things, and as teachers it is our job to make sure we allow them to feel like that.

“And finally, I think it’s important to make sure that every child leaving this school is prepared for the future – that’s not necessarily university either, it’s about making sure they have a wide range of skills so that they feel confident to move on to whatever they want to do next.”

Sanders’ former headteacher, John McEachern, stepped down in September last year amid a row over the school’s approach to educating its pupils.