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030: Looking back on strategy with John Claughton

In this episode, I welcome back John Claughton, former Chief Master of King Edward's School, Birmingham. John was a Classics master at Eton College from 1984 to 2001, where he was also in charge of cricket. He was Headmaster of Solihull School from 2001-2005, and then Chief Master of King Edward's School, Birmingham, his old school, from 2006 to 2016. More recently, he is author of the book Transforming young lives: Fundraising for bursaries, which was published by the Independent Schools’ Council in 2020, in partnership with IDPE, Graham-Pelton and ISBA. During our conversation, John and I look back at some of the decisions about school strategy that he made as a Head. Through this conversation, we will reflect on how, whilst at the time John may not have felt that the decisions he was taking were strategic, he was actually using some of the hallmarks of robust strategy. Firstly, I ask John about his experiences of making decisions and whether he recognised them as strategic when he was making them. We discuss long term decision making, how the trends around you can help you identify long term solutions and the role of governors in forming these strategies. Finally, we explore John's decision making process at King Edward's School and how he adopted a set of core questions for forming a strategy, primarily: how to restore the academic spark of the school, the answers to which lead to switching from A Levels to the International Baccalaureate, focussing on bursaries and outreach. Episode Highlights

  • Introducing John Claughton (01:35)

  • John's experience of decision making through his career (04:55)

  • Finding the simplest solution to overcome the challenge (10:25)

  • The long term nature of strategy and the role of governors (13:45)

  • Making key decisions to focus your resources (16:05)

Download your copy of the free eBook ‘The Strategic Independent School Leader’ at

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