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Retirement starts head's new chapter

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CLIVE Sentance, principal and chief executive of Alcester Grammar School (AGS), is about to start a new chapter in his life when he retires from his post at the end of the year.

Clive Sentance, Principal of Alcester Grammar School is picture with vice principal, Jeremy Slater who will be acting principal when Mr Sentance retires at the end of the year. (53692562)
Clive Sentance, Principal of Alcester Grammar School is picture with vice principal, Jeremy Slater who will be acting principal when Mr Sentance retires at the end of the year. (53692562)

He was appointed principal at the school seven years ago, a job which he says was the pinnacle of his career, but he is now thinking about the next 30 years of his life.

Mr Sentance will be bringing to a close a teaching career that has covered key positions at eight schools and plenty of key decisions, including the expansion of AGS despite the financial challenges faced by the state school sector.

He leaves AGS in a “very good place financially” for which he’s justifiably delighted, but he also leaves with concerns about the future of the teaching profession and a plea for more support for education from the government.

“There needs to be a strategy for the recruitment and retention of teachers,” he told the Herald. “The government should look at starting salaries and the opportunities for career progression, that way STEM graduates might choose a career in teaching instead of science or finance.”

Pupils remain the focus of all that takes place at AGS and Mr Sentance, 55, has always encouraged them to be part of what he calls a “virtuous circle”.

“Be kind to people. Be thankful. Be grateful. Understanding the virtuous circle means holding a door open for a member of staff, saying ‘thank you’ to the bus driver, being cheerful and picking up litter, all of which makes it a better place to be and parents buy into this.

“Most of all we encourage the five A’s: aspiration, awareness, altruism, accountability and appreciation.”

Desirable qualities to aim for and ones that no doubt helped students get through the impact on education caused by the pandemic.

“With the Covid pandemic we had to think long term and it brought a whole variety of experiences. If a student had a happy attitude through adversity they tended to cope better. We had remote learning, we had to exercise more but even with that it hasn’t been the easiest of times. The government should have planned more and schools needed help. In March 2020 AGS was absolutely flying but Covid made us retrench,” said Mr Sentance.

Educated at St Edmund Hall, Oxford University, where he met his wife, Nicky, Mr Sentance studied engineering science. But he got his love of teaching in the mid-1980s when he taught English to Palestinian children at a summer school in Israel.

He got to visit Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Haifa and the West Bank in Gaza at what was to be the start of his career in education.

However, he did work for two years in the City as an actuarial consultant which he admits has helped him with the planning side of education, particularly where finance and Covid were concerned. And it has also helped him with the timing of his retirement.

“The plan was always to think about the next step. Our relatives are in their early 80s and we want to spend the next years returning the favour to them for all the child minding they did for us. I do have some ideas as to what I want to do but I’ll step out of the frame and have some proper down time for a couple of months,” Mr Sentance said.

He loves running, so he’s going to take on the London Marathon next year. He also wants to improve his culinary skills and would like to attend more musical events, which he couldn’t do previously because he’s always in the principal’s office ready for work at 8am each school day.

“I want to go out at the top like Lennox Lewis without taking too many punches,” he added. “The welcome I got when I arrived at AGS was something I had not experienced before and I am pleased that after seven years I don’t think I’ve let anyone down!

“My wonderful vice principal, Jeremy Slater, has not only been a key member of my superb leadership team, but will also be the acting principal from January. There will be an appointment process in the spring and Jeremy will be holding the reins until the newly appointed principal starts.

“It’s a real pleasure to hear parents tell me at AGS open evenings they’d love to come back as a student to this school.”

Mr Sentance and Nicky, who is a special needs teacher at Vale of Evesham School, have two children, Joe, 30, who is an officer in the Royal Air Force and Sophie, 23, who is a special needs teacher in south London.

Reflecting on his career and the support he’s received from his wife, Nicky, Clive said: “I couldn’t have done it without her.”

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