A day in the life of Jim Walton

13th March 2015 at 00:00
With surfing on the curriculum, a 12-minute commute and local delicacies to sample, life on the island of Guernsey is proving to be a good move for this independent school headteacher

I am up early to cycle from the west coast to my school in Guernsey's only town, St Peter Port. It is always more pleasant with fewer cars on the road. The island has only 65,000 people but 85,000 vehicles, which makes for a significant rush hour twice a day. After 12 minutes of hard pedalling, I arrive before most of the teaching staff.

I became headteacher of Elizabeth College Junior School, an independent day school, just over 18 months ago. I was drawn to the islands by the French-sounding names, the promise of "ormering" on a full moon (gathering molluscs from the shore)and local delicacies such as "bean jar".

The Guernsey currency is aligned to sterling but the island retains the paper pound;1 note. When asked where I work, I never tire of showing friends the reverse of the pound;10 note with its image of Elizabeth College, which recently celebrated 450 years since being founded by Queen Elizabeth I in 1563.

Each morning I stand at the main entrance as parents and more than 350 pupils aged 2-11 arrive. This is the perfect opportunity to keep abreast with the news on the all-important island grapevine.

The sound of singing accompanies the start of every day as our head of music rehearses the choir in preparation for school productions or church services. This makes for a happy, energised and purposeful start to proceedings.

Living on an island where you are never more than two miles from the sea brings unique benefits. The daily commute is short for all, and parents nearly always attend school events. As for the students, although some pursue sporting, musical and dramatic opportunities after hours, others head to the beach. On Fridays, Adventure Club can be found seeking out a new island location to explore, and for half the school year this means a new bay each week for sea swimming.

We are also lucky to count sailing and surfing as part of the school curriculum, which is welcomed by pupils and teachers alike. Driving past the Guernsey Surf School at Vazon Bay, one of the Year 4 boys pointed to the beach and said to his mum, "That's my classroom!" For kayaking, caving or coasteering, the islands of Herm or Sark are only a short boat ride away.

The challenge of island life is to ensure that pupils develop a global outlook. Many parents travel off-island for work but providing our students with similar opportunities is difficult. We supplement the island's sporting calendar with tours to mainland UK and host several schools on an annual basis. The Elizabeth College choir tour, too, takes some students across the water to St Malo in France - just 20 miles away by ferry.

Already I can see that island life has both advantages and difficulties. For example, it will be some time before I become fluent in the Guernsey patois, but other things remain the same the world over. I teach wonderful pupils, listen to the concerns of parents, write numerous reports and prepare for inspections, but all in the fabulous context of Guernsey.

A la perchoine, as they say here (see you next time).

Your day

Do you want to tell the world's teachers about your working day, the unique circumstances in which you teach or the brilliance of your class? If so, email chloe.darracott-cankovic@tesglobal.com

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