What did you feel when you were appointed Headmaster at St. Andrew's ? My first reaction was one of surprise ! I had never applied for the job, even though I had been teaching at the school for seven years, and at the time of appointment, my job at St. Andrew's was Head of Social Sciences Faculty. The possibility of becoming Headmaster had never been discussed with me, and so the whole thing was a very pleasant surprise. I remember that in January 1982, I was back in England on home leave at my parents' house when I received a phone call from the Chairman of the Board of Governors who had just finished interviewing candidates for the Headmaster post in London. It seems that he had not been able to find the right person, and so he offered me the position of Acting Headmaster for a one-year period. I was, of course, proud and delighted, and was determined to give it my best shot. After one year, I was confirmed in the post of Headmaster.
Which were the most important decisions that you had to take as a Head ? This is a difficult one, because there were so many ! One important major decision had to be taken within the first few weeks of my taking over the helm at the school. My Headship began in March, 1982, and three weeks later the Malvinas War began. All registered British subjects living in Argentina, including myself, were strongly advised by the British Government to leave the country. I decided to stay on, however, and as a result my bank accounts in the UK were frozen by the British authorities ! Right from the start I decided to try to provide some continuity in the leadership of the school. Up until then, Headmasters had come and gone very quickly, and there had been three different Heads in the 8-year period before my appointment. My Headship lasted for 13 years, and only the legendary Mr. Hardy continuously occupied the post for longer..
As a teacher at the school, I had seen a number of practices which I considered to be undesirable, and was determined to change when I became Head. One of these was the staffing policy, whereby just about any English speaking person who drifted into Buenos Aires, looking for a job, could find one as a teacher at the school, whether they had teaching qualifications and experience or not. I set about to ensure that only qualified teachers were appointed during my headship, and also developed an ongoing programme of In-Service Training for staff at all levels. Improving the quality of the staff also meant that I had the unpleasant duty of having to fire several existing teachers, several of whom had grown to be my friends
Another thing that I was determined to eliminate was the tradition for pupils in their final year of Secondary school to go on a rampage both within the school and on the surrounding streets, as a final gesture of rebellion. During my first three years as Head I had to cancel the Graduation Dinner twice, before everyone realised that this absurd tradition was no longer acceptable. After this, we all enjoyed a harmonious ending to every school year. I always believed that academic excellence was the main "raison d'etre" of the school, but in the early years of my headship we also focused on widening the range of extra curricular, inter-house and club activities. There were times when so much was going on and the pupils were so enthused that it was difficult to get them to go home at the end of the day !
Some of the most difficult decisions, of course, involved deciding on which children should be admitted to the school. At that time, for every pupil who entered, there were eight or ten others on a waiting list, hoping anxiously to be accepted. My job was to enforce the school's admission policy in the face of unbelievable pressure from influential people who wanted to jump the queue. These included government ministers, CEO's of major multinational companies, well known celebrities, etc. At the same time, equally difficult decisions had to be made when it was decided that a pupil had to leave the school, either for academic or conduct reasons.
During my first year as Head, there was a young music and drama teacher called Peter McFarlane, working in the Olivos English Primary School. Although some people were incredulous, I was convinced that he had the potential to transform music and drama in the Secondary School, and offered him the chance to teach and organise inter-house cultural events, and put on school plays at Secondary level. His spectacular musical productions with students and former pupils will always be remembered as a part of St. Andrew's folklore. Just before leaving the school in 1994, I was involved in an important decision to replace the existing GCE examinations and curricula with the IB. I felt sure this was the way to go, and hope that time has shown the decision to be correct.
If you had to tell the story of your life, what did St. Andrew's mean to you ? I spent 20 years of my life at St. Andrew's, 13 of them as Headmaster, and so of course, the school and its community meant a very great deal to me. Some of the happiest years I can remember were at St. Andrew's, working with outstanding and highly motivated children and teachers. In fact, when I left the school I realised that it would simply be an anticlimax to move on somewhere else, and continue with a career in education. I decided, therefore, to pursue my other main passion in life, which is tourism. In short, I gave my all to the Headship at the school, and have mostly very fond memories of the St. Andrew's years.
My best wishes to all of you at St. Andrew's, and I hope that the commemoration of the 170th. Anniversary goes very well. Kind regards, Kevan.