Ahead of his retirement, we sat down for a chat with Deputy Head Michael Price. Michael has been at Bloxham for 23 years, and all four of the children he shares with his wife Jan have grown up in Bloxham and been through the School. Michael is a treasured member of staff who has had an impact on the lives of generations of Bloxhamists. He will be sorely missed, but we are excited at the prospect of welcoming Louise Ladds into the role of Deputy Head from September.

What was your first role at bloxham and why did you choose to work here?

I came in January 2000 as chaplain. I had been a parish priest since 1986 working first in Solford, then in the middle of Manchester, so coming here was a bit of a different world! At that stage, I had three young children and a fourth on the way who was born our first summer here. I came because as a parish priest I found I loved being involved in schools teaching. A school like this gave me the chance to teach as well as go on doing all the priestly things. It also gave me a community that was small enough that I could actually make an impact.

I was chaplain for 14 years, and I also took on various other roles. I was immediately what was then called the child protection officer which is now the DSL. I was Head of Department for what we then called Religious Studies and I did that right from the word go. Since becoming Deputy Head Pastoral I’ve been in charge of boarding at some stages, pastoral care, and discipline. I then took over running the broader curriculum at one stage. I took over cover, took over the lead figure in HR. I’ve had lots of different roles, which is a great privilege. I’ve had the privilege of being in the room for all the major decisions. I’ve been a part of them, but I’ve never had to take ultimate responsibility because of the heads!

What have I valued and enjoyed the most? Being chaplain. It’s a fantastic privilege, but 14 years was enough. When I look back, everything I value the most has been done with lots of other people and that’s the key to it in the end. When I came here, within a few weeks I knew that what I loved the most was working with other people who were thinking the same thing as I was thinking, who in the end were involved in the same great process of educating and caring for the young. I was sharing that and that’s always been it.

In the end, chapel remains the heart of this place and some of my heart will always be in the chapel. It’s been a great focus for me. Not only have I taken all the services and led assemblies, but being able to have a spiritual and a moral impact on countless students is fantastic. Beyond that, I’ve taken baptisms, weddings of lots of staff and Old Bloxhamists and that’s fantastic. The flipside is that I’ve also led funerals. The three students whose funerals I’ve led are Matthew Smith, Paddy Kellett and Saskia Jones. I knew them very well and they were all just delightful whilst they were here and beyond. Though obviously very painful, it was a privilege to be part of that.

The chapel, in the end, has given me so much. I’ve tried to maintain the same sort of leadership qualities that you would expect in a chaplain as Deputy Head. Sometimes that’s difficult because you’re having to do something that nobody wants to do so you’re never going to be as popular, but I’ve tried to do it with the same sort of consistency, generosity of spirit and understanding of where people are and why they’ve done what they’ve done as I think you’d expect a chaplain to demonstrate.

is there anything in particular from your own school days which shaped the kind of deputy head you have become?

I was at school at Shrewsbury which I loved, and I was blessed to have a very fine chaplain who was a very good communicator, so I try to be up front communicating, eye balling everybody in the style that David did when I was a boy. My Deputy Head at school was already quite a legendary figure even when I was there, not just in the school but in the wider independent school world. He was not only the Deputy Head but had been acting head a couple of times, he’d been acting bursar, acting matron, he’d done anything they needed. He had a great capacity to communicate with everyone. There was a great generosity of spirit about him and his love for the institution that he served was so palpable and obvious that you couldn’t miss it. I hope that if I’ve got some of that, a love of the place that comes through, then that’s a good thing, but I could never be as good as he was!

what are your plans for after you leave bloxham?

Jan and I are moving to Newark, Nottinghamshire. We’re both going to do a bit of work after leaving. Jan will probably go on teaching a couple of days a week. I will probably be doing priestly things, which will be good. I also hope I can go and volunteer at things I used to do all those years ago, well before I came here. There are various charities I’ve supported and I would like to get back to working with them.

How do you hope you’ll be remembered at school by staff and students?

I hope as somebody who has continued the tradition of serving the place and its people in my own time. A lot of people came before me who did precisely that. There are plenty doing it now and there will be plenty doing it in the future and I hope I have been able to be a part of that.

what do you think makes a bloxham education special?

If I had to encapsulate it, I would say we reach for the stars, but we’re down to earth. We’re aspiring to develop pupils as human beings who are going to contribute well to humanity and the world we live in. Although the students are very respectful, they can always look at you and smile and joke with you and they’re very good at knowing that there’s a boundary and that there are times when things are serious. I love the capacity they have to judge the mood and they pass that on from one to another, which means the place has a sort of staff-student friendliness which I like.

are there any hobbies or passion projects you’re hoping to pursue in retirement?

I’m fairly focused on being a priest. It gives you all sorts of entries into lots of different things which I love. We have deliberately bought somewhere with a good, well-looked after garden so I’ve jolly well got to get out there and make sure I do it well – I’d never forgive myself if I let it go to wrack and ruin! I quite enjoy writing, and there are one or two things I’d like to do just in a very amateur sort of way. A lot of life for Jan and me is about our four children and so we will spend a lot of time doing whatever we can to support them.

If you had to give all bloxham students one piece of advice, what would it be?

My favourite ever sermon by someone else is called ‘Everything I Needed to Know, I Learned in a Kindergarten.’ The author says, you were taught to share everything, play fair, not hit others, not to take other people’s things, to clear up your own mess, to say sorry, to hold hands, to look and learn and listen, and ultimately, to love. All those things are fantastic advice for toddlers and I think they’re fantastic advice for all ages really.

what advice would you give to your successor?

I think don’t listen to your predecessor! It’s better that she comes in with fresh eyes and has a good look at the place and says this is what I think it needs to drive it forward, because whilst I have loved every minute of it and 23 years has been great, it always needs new life, so drive it forward, which I’m sure she’s going to do.