Every month Katy Gordon speaks to a Courier Country business person to learn what makes them tick. This month, she met Dr Michael Carslaw, Headmaster of St Leonards School, at The View restaurant in Wormit.
Every single person I’ve spoken to over lunch for this feature has had a lot riding on their shoulders. From teams of staff to a company’s future, the stakes are high. As I sat down with Dr Michael Carslaw, I wondered if his responsibility was perhaps the greatest.
As Headmaster at St Leonards, he is in charge of ensuring that each and every pupil gets the chance to fulfil their dreams and potential. And he is definitely aware of the size of his role, but the twinkle in his eye gives me the impression that’s exactly what he loves about it.
“I started teaching after doing VSO in Ghana after graduation,” he explained, “and that was where my love of teaching came from.
“You could see that education really meant something and that it truly can change lives and it was a real privilege to be a part of that experience.
“Even now, I love seeing leavers from St Leonards and finding out where they have gone and what they have done since they left the school.”
To start, Michael chose the goats cheese and prosciutto in filo pastry, which came on a bed of beetroot and cranberry. I, meanwhile, had a starter from the vegetarian menu – a poached egg with asparagus and baby potatoes, with a dollop of hollandaise on top.
As we ate, Michael explained that despite the fact that his role takes him out of the classroom, he makes a point of staying connected.
“I actually have a Fitbit and I set myself a target to do at least 10,000 paces a day, and a lot of that will be around the school. I think that it’s very important to be visible and with the size of St Leonards I can put a face to a name and keep that personal touch.”
And while the pupils are enjoying their summer holidays, Michael is still at work,
overseeing £3 million of work to facilities at the school.
“Due to increasing demand, nationally and internationally, we are totally revamping our boarding houses. We’ve completely refurbished an
existing boarding house, for example.
“It means we will have more space to meet demand locally and offer part-time boarding, for pupils who maybe only want to stay part of the week and then go home to spend the weekend with their families.”
When term starts in September, it will be back to work for all the pupils. St Leonards follows the International Baccalaureate programme.
“Elements of the IB Sixth Form Diploma programme are taught from our Junior School upwards – we are the only school is Scotland where this happens – and this year’s record breaking results show these curriculum ingredients are the recipe for success.
“There’s a misconception about independent and private schools that only wealthy people can attend them. But it’s not the case – what we do offer is a different type of education.
“The IB programme was developed 50 years ago and is designed to give pupils the chance to learn through more ways than just sitting exams.”
For the main course, I (again from the veggie menu) opted for pasta with a creamy sauce and chestnut mushrooms, while Michael chose the breast of chicken with potatoes, leeks, chorizo and a pesto sauce.
As we continue to talk, I can’t help but notice how passionate Michael seems about the work he does and St Leonards. I ask if that is something he looks for in the people he hires.
“Aside from qualifications and experience, I definitely look for enthusiasm and passion in potential staff. They also need to enjoy working with children and their parents, because the relationship at St Leonards is triangular – teacher, pupil and
And as well as preparing for the start of the new school year, Michael and his staff are ready to welcome potential pupils and parents to the junior and senior school’s open morning on Saturday, October 8.
The business of education, it appears, is about creating adults ready to face the business of life.