Interview: A day in the life of… Jeremy Dunn

The director of finance and operations at Nottingham Girls’ High School, GDST tells us about his job

What is it about your job that gets you out of bed in the morning?

The variety of the role – every day is different – and the people. I have an amazing team I work with, as well as my colleagues on the SLT. Our head, Julie Keller, has transformed this school and it is a privilege to be part of her team.

I am sure my job is not dissimilar to most independent school DFOs. As well as finance, my job covers just about everything that isn’t teaching and learning. So, if anyone thinks this is a desk-based job, then think again. I never sit down for more than five minutes at a time! Yesterday, I was even helping to de-rig some lights in the theatre.

What is the first thing you do when you start work each day?

I start every day with yoga and meditation; both are really important to me and set me up for the day. When I get to work, I make a pot of green tea, check my diary, make a ‘to-do’ list and clear any overnight emails. The emails are relentless – the curse of the modern age – so I try to manage them at points during the day. By that time, I am ready for a coffee – I am not a complete health fanatic!

What is the best and most challenging aspect of your role?

As I have mentioned, it is the variety of the role which makes it both the best and the most challenging. The Performing Arts Centre is one aspect of the role which I never anticipated being involved with: from the original concept, through to the build and now line-managing its development both as a venue for the school and running it commercially.

The performing arts are so important for our students’ personal development, regardless of whether they are going to be an actor or a doctor. For many, being on the stage performing is what they want to do, but for others it is stage management or operating the lights and sound from the control room. They all build their confidence and their ability to work as a team.

From a non-school point of view, it was always important to us to work with emerging artists, nurturing new talent, as well as engaging with established performers. The coming autumn season has everything from stand-up folk music to Shakespeare. But theatres have been through a very difficult time over the last couple of years, and we have been no exception.

What was your favourite subject at school?

Arts subjects were always my focus at school – my A-levels included English and music. I learnt piano, cello and flute but, sadly, I rarely play now. I am in the staff choir at school, though, which is great fun.

What are you currently reading?

I have just finished reading Force of Nature by the Australian writer Jane Harper – a really good holiday read. And I have just started Waterland by Graham Swift (it has been on the reading list for some years). I always have several books on the go, both fiction and non-fiction. My fiction tastes are quite wide, as long as the book is well written.

On the non-fiction front, I have recently read Already Free by Bruce Tift, which is about the congruence between psychotherapy and Buddhism; both subjects really engage me.

What has been your career highlight?

Overall, I have had a varied career but really enjoy working in the education sector. In this role, completing the build of our Performing Arts Centre has definitely been a highlight. I was involved from the original concept of The Squire Performing Arts Centre, ‘the space’, and throughout the build. It was a complex project, which I found both rewarding and challenging.

In other organisations where I have worked, I have been very much part of a team moving the business forward.

You have to keep moving forward in life and in business. Nothing stays the same.

If you weren’t in this role, what would you be?

Randomly, I trained as an actor before deciding to be an accountant. However, last year I qualified as a therapist and I am building up a client base (when time allows). So, that is what I would be doing if I wasn’t in this role and it is definitely part of my retirement plan.

I am passionate about the importance of wellbeing – I am one of the school’s mental health first-aiders – and I have become increasingly interested in various modalities of therapy. I believe the therapist’s role is to help people overcome those obstacles which prevent them from leading a fulfilling life. It is very rewarding.

I am old enough to have trained as a chartered accountant the old-fashioned way as an articled clerk at a local firm, with the odd stint at Nottingham Trent University. Within months of qualifying, I got a job in the British Virgin Islands and sometimes wish I was still there, even if it were just for the lifestyle. Definitely a highlight.

Twitter: @NottmGirlsHigh

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