Paul Sanderson joined Bloxham School in 2013, following positions as Deputy Head and Director of Curriculum at Gordonstoun.
Paul believes passionately in preparing young people for the challenges in life through a holistic education. Originally from Northern Ireland, he was educated at Banbridge Academy before studying Evolutionary Biology and Genetics at St. Andrews University. He followed this with postgraduate qualifications from the University of Oxford (PGCE) and University of Cambridge (MPhil). Paul went on to teach at Lancaster Royal Grammar School, Oundle and Carr Hill High before joining Gordonstoun as Housemaster and Deputy Head.
In addition to his responsibilities at Bloxham, Paul is a school inspector, a member of several national committees on education, a trustee of a Multi-Academy Trust and a governor of a local junior school. He believes strongly in creating a positive school community, where pupils can find space to grow into young men and women who will be a force for good wherever they find themselves in life.
Paul enjoys all things sporting, and is an Ulster rugby enthusiast, with a passion for the outdoors, including skiing and climbing. He is a qualified outdoor instructor, and runs the school climbing group taking them on trips to Scotland and the Alps. Paul is supported by his wife, Helen; they have three children, William, Molly, and Tom.
I love to see young people get a glimpse of what they might become through successes that they didn’t think were possible.Paul Sanderson, Headmaster
What makes a Bloxham education special?
At Bloxham, there is so much for children to explore and try, with people there to look out for them and congratulate them on their successes or pick them up when needed. A Bloxham education looks to give skills for life, not just for when they leave school at 18. Core values are important, with a focus on service, community and friendships. At Bloxham, we look to develop character and self-worth, encouraging our pupils to think of others before themselves and to give rather than take. We help to educate future world leaders and leaders in business, providing them with the skills to know what to do with that leadership for the benefit of all.
What do you remember most about your first visit to Bloxham?
I firstly remember that it was bitterly cold and that I was late for my interview as my train from Scotland had been delayed! The first person that I met was Tom Akers, a charming, earnest and delightful man, who set the tone for the rest of my visit and the staff and pupils I would meet. Bloxham’s ethos of educating body, mind and soul was the right fit for me and the culmination of my experience to that point in both state and independent schools. I loved that people came first and that children learnt about relationships and were given a sense of belonging.
What does being a Head mean to you?
Being a Head to me means leading a community where children are given the opportunity to be supported in their growing up and self-discovery.
What aspect of your job do you enjoy the most?
I love to see young people get a glimpse of what they might become through successes that they didn’t think were possible, like the child who thinks they can’t draw and ends up having art on the wall, or the shy child who discovers a passion for drama and joins the National Youth Theatre, or the child who discovers chemistry, is challenged by the Chemistry Olympiad and goes onto study it at university.
For me, ensuring that I continue to have contact with our pupils is vital. I don’t have to, but I see it as really important that I continue to teach, take an outdoor trip each year, referee in rugby matches and take a climbing activity so that I can continue to have a strong relationship with our pupils.
How did your own school days shape your adult life?
I had teachers who inspired me and could see my potential, teachers who encouraged me to try things that I didn’t think I was capable of. Outside of school, two youth workers made a real difference to my childhood, including introducing me to climbing and the benefits of outdoor education. Davina McAlpin, one of these youth workers, gave me a book which sits proudly in my office with the wise words of: “To try and fail is not failure. To try and fail again is not failure. Failure is failing to try in the first place.”