St Anthony's head: ‘Teachers should demand more of pupils’

School moved to Hampstead from Eastbourne in 1952

Monday, 11th July — By Harry Taylor

richard berlie july7 Image 2022-07-11 at 7.47.04 AM (14)

Richard Berlie at St Anthony’s

IF you see a motorcyclist weaving towards Hampstead from south London on a weekday morning, it could be the head of a Hampstead private school.

Richard Berlie emphasises he’s no leathers wearer, but boasts that it allows him to zip up to St Anthony’s Boys’ School in just 28 minutes.

“It’s a sort of a cross between a moped and a motorbike really,” he said. Mr Berlie is approaching the end of his second school year in charge of the school in Arkwright Road.

After taking over in the midst of the Covid crisis, he said he wanted to introduce a more “analytical” approach to teaching – which includes pupils getting talks from university professors.

He said his approach at the school, which teaches boys aged four to 13, was driven by his experience at senior schools.

“We have torn up what was in place. We have looked afresh at reworking the curriculum, assessments, reporting, how we stretch the more able,” he said.

“My ethos is that teachers should, and could, and are beginning to demand much more from our children. I think they are more capable than we give them credit for.”

However, in response to questions about whether the school was “pushing” children too hard he said the key was getting the balance right in the run up to 11+ and 13+ exams.

“We’re not waiting until Year 6 and saying ‘right, we need to do this’. You need to get your mapping and curriculum right,” Mr Berlie said. “That way you can build stretch and challenge into it. The temperature will go up slightly, that’s natural, but the preparation has been there.”

The school moved to Hampstead from Eastbourne in 1952 and in the most recent inspection by the independent schools inspectorate was recognised for its “excellent” levels of academic achievement and personal development.

As the school’s 13-year-olds prepare to go and start a new school in September after the infamous interview process, Mr Berlie tells parents to not overprepare their children and instead interviewers will be looking for a passion that their child has.

He said: “The first thing is interest, genuine commitment to something they can talk about, from table tennis to coding, to trains or Lego. Be interested in it, ask why things happen.”

Mr Berlie said: “When they say their favourite subject is maths, it’s like, really? How many 10-year-olds have that actually as their favourite subject. I’d much rather they said games, because you can then draw a lot out of it about their character.”

Mr Berlie is now in his 25th year of teaching, but started from a more humble background.

He said he was washing cars at 13, working in Marks and Spencer at 16 and mopping hospital floors in Wandsworth at age 17.

“I wasn’t born with a silver spoon in my mouth, and I’m glad for it, because I was encouraged to take responsibilities and go out and do things,” he said.

“We want these children to have their feet firmly on the ground. They will be leaders and captains of industry, we don’t want them to lose track of reality.”

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