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In The Spotlight: An Interview With OIAMFS Principal MR Rees

Every so often, we like to put the spotlight on one of our staff members and have students do a live Q&A with them. For this one, who better to do it with than Mr Rees, the Principal of One In A Million Free School!

Vlada: Why did you apply to become Principal of our school?
Mr Rees: Finding a school that you want to be Principal of is a very tricky business. You need to feel that connection with it, otherwise it won’t work. As a proud Bradfordian, I was looking for a school from within this area, and ideally I wanted it to be small. Small schools ensure you really get to know all of your students. That is a luxury that many other schools cannot boast.

Sylvia: Now in post, what are your favourite things about our school?
Mr Rees: The students are the stars of One In A Million without a doubt. They are friendly, intelligent, and at times forthright and happy to speak their mind. I love that the vast majority seem to embody the core values of the school.

Shaid: Why did you want a career in education?
Mr Rees: I did not find school particularly easy when I was younger. I was someone who had to work hard in order to achieve success rather than just finding things come naturally or easy. Therefore, without the help and support of the teachers I had, there is no way I could have ever achieved the qualifications I did. As a result, I was always determined to try and emulate those that inspired me so much and to try and support students just as they supported me.

Deyh-Jelle: How important is it to have good literacy skills?
Mr Rees: Literacy is crucial, more today than ever before. People are subjected to so much more information via the internet, blogs, social media and instant communication, that the ability to be literate is crucial. The pace of the world has accelerated and without outstanding literacy skills, people will be left behind.

Ameena: What is your favourite book and why?
Mr Rees: You can’t ask an English teacher that! There are so many that I love and that have had a profound impact upon me. Chaucer’s ‘The Canterbury Tales’ is hugely important to me as it really was the beginning of modern literature as we know it. From an aesthetic point of view, John Steinbeck’s opening chapter of ‘Cannery Row’ is probably my favourite. I think it is written with such eloquence and gentility, yet is strikingly observant and profound. As a teenager, Salinger’s ‘The Catcher In The Rye’ was hugely important to me. It was the first time I read a novel where the protagonist (a flawed and somewhat annoying teenager) expressed exactly the same frustrations and emotions that I was feeling, despite being written in 1945 and set in California. This text truly taught me that great literature was more than just words on a page, but instead, is something that captures your soul and presents it back at you like a form of twisted mirror!

Liam: Tell us something interesting about yourself that nobody would know?
Mr Rees: I’m a fairly open book! I suppose the things people are most surprised about me is the fact that I hold multiple black belts in Karate, and am a huge fan of Hip Hop and Rap music.

Edward: What life lesson would you like to teach students at OIAM?
Mr Rees: There are so many lessons that our young people need to learn, however, if I were forced to espouse just one lesson, then it would be the power of resilience. As stated before, I have not always found things easy and have often had to work hard to achieve my successes. It is crucial that our students learn that failure is not something to be feared, but instead is a vital learning opportunity. They should also embrace the power of the word “yet”… as in, “I cannot do that … YET!”. With great resilience you soon will!

Muhammad: What are your plans for our school? What do you hope to achieve long term?
Long term, I am sure that One In A Million will go from strength to strength, becoming one of the most successful schools in the city. In the short term, I am re-developing the school’s behaviour, sanctions and rewards policy and will be focusing on ensuring that all students’ attitudes to learning are as positive as possible.