Interview With Head of Chiswick Community School Tony Ryan

“It’s about building a family to which people are proud to belong"


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Tony Ryan has the look of a leader. A sturdy man with a generous smile, he exudes authority along the corridors of Chiswick Community School and clearly warrants the respect he has already gained from staff, parents and children alike.

Interview With Head of Chiswick Community School Tony Ryan

Head of Chiswick Community School Tony Ryan

Born and educated in Chiswick, Ryan is convinced the school has tremendous potential. "During my own education, pupils could be left behind and written off. This is not acceptable. I do not want students at Chiswick to leave having wasted their time. All should leave this school achieving their best’, he told staff at the first meeting of the year. "Together we can make this an outstanding school."

Tony Ryan apologised for being a few minutes late for our meeting because two Year 7 pupils were interviewing him for a school project, one of the many initiatives of the Opening Minds programme which helps children learn life skills. “Schools need to do better, we need to help children develop socially, confident adaptable problems solvers,” he said. “Like a told a group of new parents last week, most of the jobs these kids will be doing in their late forties haven’t been invented yet.

“Exam results are just one part of it. It’s about setting aspirations, letting students and teachers know what is expected of them.”

We get onto the inevitable subject of Chiswick’s former reputation. “A school can get a bad reputation very quickly and lose it very slowly,” He says. “Alan [Howson] turned the ship around but my role is a different one. My job is to change perceptions of the school both internally and externally.

“It’s about building a family to which people are proud to belong and if we find that one kid on who’s on the outside we need to find out why and how we can bring them in. Students need to have a sense of pride, of ownership and attainment. We need the make sure we have the right resources for teachers to teach and to make this a place where they want to be.”

“I only see potential here.” It’s this attitude that runs through our entire conversation and it’s evident from the progress already made that Alan Howson’s legacy coupled with Tony Ryan’s drive and determination that it's not just words.

“It’s that tipping point, when the trouble makers are in the minority, when the majority want to succeed, that’s when the turnaround happens and it’s already well on its way.”

Speaking about Michael Gove’s recent speech ostensibly giving Head teachers more power to deal with misbehaviour amongst pupils outside the school gates, Ryan says, “It was a great speech but I already have those powers and I use them. The children know that if they misbehave in uniform on High Road it’s the same as if they misbehave in the classroom. Both are treated in exactly the same way. They know that if they behave badly they will have to explain themselves at school – it goes back to feeling proud of their school, being proud of belonging.”

Staying on the subject of Michael Gove and the loss of the Building Schools for the Future funding he says, “Chiswick will be an outstanding school. It’s not about leaky windows it’s about how children learn.”

Emma Brophy

November 3, 2010

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