‘I prefer to work with children who have a bit of an edge’: New Aylesbury Vale Academy principal on grammar schools, social justice, discipline and old-fashioned values

Roger Burman
Roger Burman

Meet Aylesbury Vale Academy’s new head teacher.

Roger Burman is on a mission to turn around the struggling school with old fashioned values and a whole lot of hard work.

Roger Burman

Roger Burman

Mr Burman recently moved to the area from Rotherham, turning around the fortunes of Winterhill School which under his stewardship went from satisfactory (equivalent to ‘requires improvement’ under the new Ofsted regime) to good with elements of outstanding.

Mr Burman said he wanted a job which would be challenging.

He said: “I didn’t want to work in a grammar school, I prefer to work with children who have a bit of an edge.

“This school has a lot of issues and is clearly not good enough. Attitudes to learning are poor and results are not good enough.”

And Mr Burman says that an early schooling experience of his own convinced him that good discipline is the way to instill pride and improve grades in schools.

He said: “I defintely have old fashioned values. When I was at school I went to a school in the equivalent of year 8 and nine where it was really relaxed.

“We called the teachers by their first name and there were no school rules.

“It really didn’t work for me and my reading and writing suffered. But I pulled it back, and it left me with an unshakeable belief that to get the best fron pupils you have to have high expectations.”

Mr Burman took up his post on April 11. He says that his new style of headship is already making an impact on school life.

He said: “I have had people saying to me that they cannot believe this person or that person is in their proper uniform.

“I don’t consider that to be an achievement, it is a minimum requirement.

“In the three weeks that I’ve been here we have had no fixed term exclusions, and prior to that they were happening on a daily basis.”

Mr Burman said that by focussing on behaviour and instilling a sense of school pride, the state-of-the-art academy facility will soon be one of the best schools in Aylesbury.

He said: “We need to stop the inappropriate behaviour by modelling the behaviour that we want and helping the pupils to make better choices.

“We want to produce students who have inquiring minds and are going to be good citizens.

“Most of the schools in this area that aren’t grammar schools are categorised in terms of inadequate. If that’s what is on offer I don’t think there is any social justice in that.

“But when you have multiple indices of deprivation there has to be something to improve people’s life choices.

“That’s why I work in a school like this, because I believe in social justice and being motivated to achieve your goals.

“It’s about giving them the tools they need to make the right choices, like a bell which they didn’t have before.”

And speaking about how pupils have reacted to the new style of leadership, Mr Burman said: “I’ve had a surprising number of pupils come up to me telling me what needs to be done.

“I’ve been very clear from the beginning that this is not about beating them with a big stick, and I’ve been pleased by their response.”