Mr Philip Walters Leads by Example
An interview with Philip Walters, Headmaster
Cambridge graduate Philip Walters is Headmaster of the British School of Bucharest, after joining the school in 2012 as Head of Secondary School. While at Christ’s College, Cambridge, he read Geography. Philip taught the British Curriculum for many years in a highly selective UK grammar school as Head of Department before moving into the international sphere with a position at Harrow International School, in Bangkok, Thailand, where he worked for seven years as part of the Senior Leadership Team in the roles of Head of House and Head of Sixth Form.
Why did you go into teaching?
Having qualified as a chartered accountant, I enjoyed working as an auditor for several years and learning about various different businesses from carpet manufacturers to the British Film Institute to BP. I realised though that I wanted something different from a job yet was unsure what this might be. I became a qualified football referee, something I would thoroughly recommend, and each weekend officiated at various levels of the game. Through this I found that I loved working with the youth leagues in particular and helping children from a huge variety of backgrounds and ages to learn and enjoy the game. Following this experience, I decided to train to become a secondary school teacher and reverted to my first love at school – Geography!
What made you want to join BSB?
The opportunity to lead as a Head of Secondary in a School with fantastic resources and enormous potential. This was coupled with an interest in moving to Romania and back to Europe, but to a country and culture different to the Europe that I knew and in which I had grown up.
In how many countries have you lived?
Four – England, Thailand, Romania and France
Which school, where you have taught, was most different to BSB? From a cultural and sociological point of view.
Both my previous schools were very different in context, but they were similar in terms of ethos and approach. Harrow International School is a British Curriculum school in Bangkok with a majority of local students, whilst the Latymer School is a state grammar school in north London. The overriding importance of a holistic approach to education and emphasis on elements such as co-curricular activities, pastoral welfare and the house system are shared with BSB alongside an absolute focus on academic success and seeking to ensure the best possible destinations for each and every child.
How do you think your academic background as a Cambridge graduate influenced your career?
I am not sure. I loved studying at Cambridge and remain in touch with many people from that time. I loved studying Geography as an academic subject and was blessed to have some remarkable teachers at school and university. I continue to enjoy sharing my enthusiasm for the subject and hope to do so for many more years!
What do you love the most about being the Headmaster of BSB?
The diversity of the role is remarkable with one day never resembling the next. Being able to have an impact in such a variety of areas is inspiring. I am very proud of the work that has been done over the past nine years with my colleagues and the children at BSB and honoured to have been able to play a role in the development of BSB during this time.
What do you think is the key to success?
What are the greatest challenges that teachers face today?
The increased workload, stresses and difficulties should not be underestimated. Planning engaging activities with new limitations in the classroom; moving from room to room in Secondary; mastering new technologies; keeping connected to learners who have to stay online simultaneously to those in the classroom; enforcing the regulations to ensure safety for all, meaning additional duties for everyone; communicating effectively with the barrier of face masks both verbally and non-verbally … the list is large.
Our teaching staff are doing remarkably well under very difficult circumstances and we can all be enormously grateful to them for their immense work. They are though making the most of every minute that we have with the children.
What qualities make a great teacher during these difficult times?
A passion for the role, resilience, creativity, extraordinary emotional intelligence, pedagogical adaptability and a sense of humour. Arguably the same qualities that will always make a great teacher.
If you weren’t the Headmaster of BSB, what would your dream job be?
I would love to have been a National Park warden but being the Head of Sixth Form is also a wonderful role in schools.
And finally: tell us something unexpected about yourself.
In my first two years of teaching, I had the pleasure to teach A Level Geography to a wonderful student by the name of Alice. Many of you will now know her as Mrs. Allsop, one of our Geography teachers here at BSB.