Redland Green School has a new headteacher this year – Ben Houghton. 

How have your first two terms as head at RGS been?

As with starting any new job, it has been hard work but I have really enjoyed it. The students and staff at Redland are incredibly friendly and welcoming which has allowed me to settle into my role quickly. I have also enjoyed meeting parents and other members of the community connected with the school at various events.

This isn’t your first time working at RGS is it?

No, I first worked at RGS from 2007-2013 as curriculum lead for humanities and then assistant headteacher for post-16. I was part of the first group of staff to teach at the RGS site and I loved working in a new school and having the opportunity to shape its ethos. When the headship came up I jumped at the chance return – RGS is very much part of my DNA!

What has impressed you most about RGS?

First and foremost it’s the attitude of our students. They are a great group of young people who are polite, respectful and willing to learn. I am also very lucky to have a dedicated and talented staff body who are prepared to go the extra mile to ensure that students at RGS get the very best they can out of being at this school.

Are you going to be making lots of changes?

No! My first two terms have been about listening to as many views of the school as I can but there are things I think we need to look at in the future which form part of our school priorities. 

What are these?

Teaching at RGS is really good, but we can always improve. It’s important to me that all pupils have an equal chance of success at school and one of the best ways to achieve this is to ensure that we provide the best possible teaching. We ensure our teachers receive training into the most effective methods to help all students learn, drawing on expertise within the school but also from the multi academy trust that we are part of. We are also focused on developing our approach to equalities, diversity and inclusion.

What does that involve?

It is important that as a school community we acknowledge the diversity of our intake and that we learn to celebrate differences. This means that we have a responsibility to educate students on matters of diversity and inclusion and we are constantly looking at ways to make our curriculum representative of the different cultures and backgrounds that make up our city. We are also an  anti-racist school and want to equip our students with the confidence to call out and challenge discrimination in any form.

What support do you get as a school?

We are very lucky to be part of the Gatehouse Green multi academy trust who support and encourage us to further improve. Additionally, the school governors are committed to ensuring that we have the challenge and support needed to improve. 

The Gatehouse Green Learning Trust you are part of is merging with another multi academy trust. Will that change anything?

We are merging with Excalibur Academies Trust, which will enable us to work with a larger number  of schools and a wider range of professionals. This can only benefit RGS. I am really excited at the prospect of working with Excalibur and think that it will ultimately help RGS to bigger and better things.

Students at RGS achieve excellent examgrades – is this all that matters?

Absolutely not! RGS is built upon our core values of Respect – Ambition – Responsibility,  which we believe ensure that our students are able to play a valuable role in society. But for me it is so important that school is fun and provides students with lifelong memories and experiences they can draw upon later on in life. Providing opportunities for enrichment is a key for us and at RGS we pride ourselves on having a full programme of co-curricular activities that all students can involve themselves in and enjoy to develop new skills and interests. We also believe that it is essential to provide first class pastoral care for all our students; our tutors, mentors, year heads and well being leads provide outstanding care in this area.

What would you say are the biggest challenges for schools at the moment?

Without a doubt funding is a huge issue and there is often much uncertainty around how much schools will receive in a financial year as well as decisions taken which put enormous pressures on budgets. An example of this is the recent teacher pay increase which has not been funded by central government but which has had to be found from existing budgets. Schools are having to play an increasingly demanding role in dealing with mental health and social care issues as health care providers feel the strain post pandemic. But I am an eternal optimist – as a school we are here to serve our local community and we will do our best regardless of the conditions which are out of our control

Being a headteacher is a big job. How do you switch off from the pressures?

My wife and I have a whippet called Eddie and one of my favourite things is taking him for a walk along the coast path in Portishead where I live. I also have three teenage children who keep me grounded. I describe myself as a runner and cyclist, although probably best at the moment to say that I have lapsed in these two areas – perhaps a new year’s resolution is needed!