Interview: Jody Wells, Forres Sandle Manor

Although a knee injury ended Jody Wells’ plans to join the military, he likes to see the incident as one door closing and another opening in education. The keen sportsman has been headmaster of Forres Sandle Manor since April, and says he will never tire of seeing a child accomplish something new

Q. Can you sum up your career history?

Educated at Stamford School, I expected to head into the army after reading history and politics at university. However, I had an enlightening and enriching gap year at West Buckland School in North Devon which inspired the idea of teaching. 

Once I completed my B.Ed. in history, I was granted a further year to complete my Qualified Teacher Status before joining Sandhurst. At the end of that year, spent at Wells Cathedral School, I sustained a nasty knee injury and was unable to sign up. As one door closed, another opened with Wells offering me a role with their junior boarding house.

I was at Wells Cathedral School for four years, class teaching years 2 to 6, and coaching sport, which included an U18s rugby tour to Australia. 

In 2002 I joined All Hallows School in Somerset to take on the role of head of boys’ games, class teacher and junior boys’ house parent alongside my new wife, Lucy. After nine years, the birth of our two children and now head of boarding, I moved to Forres Sandle Manor in 2011 to become deputy headmaster. I became headmaster on 1 April this year.

Q. What inspired you to work in education? 

The sheer joy of seeing a child’s, or group of children’s, excitement at accomplishing something new. That moment when they realise they can achieve something that they couldn’t before is a sensation I will never tire of.

Q. What are the best things about being a head, and the biggest challenges? 

As headmaster I get to see all the great moments across the whole school – and get to be a part of them alongside the staff and pupils. I really enjoy sharing the children’s triumphs with parents and visitors. My biggest challenge is adapting to not spending so much time with the children – I particularly miss my sports coaching.

Q. What issue in education are you most passionate about? 

As Angela Duckworth states: “We need to become grittier at allowing our children to show more grit.” We need to encourage children to take responsibility for their learning, helping them to understand how they learn, allowing them to make and accept but learn from mistakes such that they become their own teachers.

To aid children develop a love for learning is the best lesson we could ever give them. Yet society appears to want to always give the answers and is stopping children from learning the most vital lessons for themselves.

Society appears to want to always give the answers and is stopping children from learning the most vital lessons for themselves

Q. Your favourite subject at school?

Sport for sure, but if I had to be in a classroom then it was history and maths that kept me from daydreaming about being back on the sports field.

Q. Your favourite book?

I tend to reach for something that is easy to follow and a bit of escapism. Historical fiction is probably my first choice; the likes of Conn Iggulden and Bernard Cornwall’s novels are particular favourites. I do enjoy a bit of Jack Reacher too!

Q. What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?

Sport plays the lead in any spare time I have – whether playing it, watching it or travelling far and wide so my children can take part in it. I love time with my family, playing golf and supporting Leicester Tigers rugby – though the order of preference certainly changes depending on performance at any given time! 

Q. What are your plans for the school going forward?

Following a full curriculum review, we’re excited by the creation of new faculty hubs which we launch in September. This has allowed us to consolidate our teaching resources. We have a focus on the development of FSM’s ‘learning powers’ which focus on the softer skills of resilience, leadership and communication etc, which are key to reinforcing our holistic approach and equipping the children with the skills to be happy and prosper beyond Forres Sandle Manor.

Q. In one sentence, what makes your school stand out?

We have total dedication to educating ‘the whole child’ to ensure that confident, well-rounded and happy children leave Forres Sandle Manor and flourish in their lives to senior school and beyond – along with our stunning 35-acre New Forest location!

Q. If you weren’t a head, what would you do instead? 

I think a sports performance analyst would be a fascinating role, given the technology available today. Optimising what our bodies can do is just mesmerising to me! 

You might also like: Interview: Joanna Wright, King Edward’s Witley

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