Q&A With Matthew Shoults, New Principal | Surbiton High School
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Q&A With Matthew Shoults, New Principal

Posted: 26th April 2024

Our new Principal, Mr Matthew Shoults, will be joining us in January 2025. For the past seven years, he has been Headmaster of Notting Hill and Ealing High School, a 4 to 18 girls’ school (part of the GDST). Before taking up headship, he was a Head of Classics, Academic Deputy Head and Senior Deputy Head. In his different roles, he has also been extensively involved in The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, cross-country running, music ensembles and residential trips.   

Matthew read Classics at Worcester College, University of Oxford and spent several years in the Civil Service Fast Stream before taking his PGCE at the University of Cambridge and beginning his teaching career. He is married to Sini, a professional violinist, and they have a six-month-old daughter, Matilda.  

We caught up with him to ask a few questions about his experience, views on education and thoughts on his exciting new role at Surbiton High School:  

What is your background in teaching?  

I’ve been teaching since 2000: first as a Classics teacher at King’s College School Wimbledon, then at North London Collegiate School for 12 years, before moving to Notting Hill & Ealing High School in 2017.    

I was inspired to go into teaching by some brilliant Sixth Form teachers I had for my A-levels (Maths, Latin and Greek); going back to watch them teach when I was thinking about changing careers made me realise the impact you can have in the classroom.  I also led several National Trust working holidays, which made me realise that I really enjoyed encouraging young people.  

What do you like about working in education?  

Young people are inspiring, thoughtful and often surprising. There is a compelling feeling working in great schools, because of the sense of energy in the corridors from both the lessons and all the activities taking place. Great schools are communities, and it is wonderful watching staff and pupils supporting different initiatives. And there is nothing like seeing a pupil realise an ambition, big or small, or surprise themselves with what they can achieve.  

What is your philosophy in teaching?  

I think there are some key things that you see in great lessons: sharing of a real love of a subject, clarity of explanation, high expectations, helping pupils to be articulate (whether speaking or on paper or in another medium) and helping them to reflect on their learning and know how to progress. Alongside this, great teachers give pupils self-belief, determination and ambition.  

What attracted you to the role of Principal at Surbiton High School? 

I am compelled by Surbiton’s values, including delighting in individuals’ achievements, and the importance of combining success with happiness. When I was shown around the School, the values really sprang to life, particularly in the encouraging and enthusiastic conversations I saw inside and outside the classroom. The teachers are deeply invested in their pupils’ success. The pupils I met were extremely positive about their experiences, and open in their ideas; they did struggle a bit to find areas for improvement!  

How would you describe your style of leadership?  

I believe in empowering teams and setting a clear vision. I enjoy doing a lot of ‘leading by walking around’ to understand what is going on in and around the classroom. I’m convinced of people’s ability to do great things, with support, but without being micro-managed.    

What changes do you plan to make in the School?  

Surbiton High School is clearly thriving, and it would be a mistake to leap in and plan changes before I’ve even arrived! So, I will do a lot of listening to the community, and a lot of observing, to understand how to take the School forward.    

Can you tell us a little about your hobbies?    

I’m a keen runner and hill walker; I’m trying to finish off my last 12 Munros (Scottish peaks over 3,000ft), but hut-to-hut walking in the Alps is also great (and without the midges). I’m an occasional squash player, and I would like to improve at tennis. I play the violin and sing in various ensembles, although becoming a father has shifted priorities somewhat! I’m also a keen cryptic crossword solver (and occasional setter). 

Categories: Staff Information Whole School