Encouraging girls into STEM subjects, outdoor learning and dealing with the mental health issues surrounding social media are high on the agenda for Bishop Luffa’s new headteacher.
Austen Hindman has taken over from Nick Taunt as the fourth headteacher at the CoE school and told the Observer he was ‘really enjoying’ his new role.
“It’s a wonderful school, I can’t believe my opportunity here,” he said.
As a former headteacher in Peacehaven and a teacher in Portsmouth and Brighton, Mr Hindman was surprised and thankful to receive messages of welcome and support from former students, staff and a ‘thriving’ PFA on stepping in to his new role.
“The moment I got the job, I can’t overstate this, I started getting messages from people who went to the school 20, 30 years ago just wanting to reach out to me and say hello.
“You just don’t get that with other schools.”
He said although the school was high achieving there was ‘potential ‘ in particular areas.
His aspirations include offering outdoor learning opportunities for all year groups to address ‘a nature deficit’ in young people’s education, through ‘forest school’ activities or similar.
He added: “I’m very interested in STEM, the science and maths subjects, and I think there are opportunities here.
“With the tougher GCSEs, we’ve already started to see girls’ grades falling in science and maths and fewer girls taking those subjects at A level.
“A high achieving school like Bishop Luffa can address that and ensure the engineers of the future are not all male.”
He said another area of concern for him was the issue of how to support students’ mental health, particularly amid the pressure of social media platforms such as Snapchat.
In his experience, he said, parents had often voiced anxieties about how to control social media usage without isolating their child from their classmates.
He said: “Teenagers are struggling with mental health. There’s a discussion around how we deal with life that’s physical and virtual and I think a school with a Christian ethos has a particular part to play in how we get that balance right in our lives.
“I think there’s a discussion to be had with parents about that.”
Mr Hindman also said he wanted to preserve the school’s unique traditions and character as well as its wider links with the city.
“It’s a very distinctive community feel that comes out of the Christian ethos of the school and I want that to continue to flourish in the time that I’m here,” he said.
“The other thing I’m particularly keen on is links and partnerships with businesses and other schools.
“I think Bishop Luffa has to be seen as a school in the heart of this community.”