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New headteacher of top Hampstead school makes ‘no apology’ for crack down on uniform policy

Mark Beard, the new headteacher of University College School in Hampstead, says the school's 'tradition of liberal scholarship is not the same as liberal attitudes'. Picture: Nigel Sutton Mark Beard, the new headteacher of University College School in Hampstead, says the school's 'tradition of liberal scholarship is not the same as liberal attitudes'. Picture: Nigel Sutton

Thursday, December 5, 2013
1:00 PM

The headteacher of a Hampstead school known for its liberal culture has made no apologies for cracking down on uniform rules and late homework in his first term as head.

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Pupils at University College School (UCS), in Frognal, could get away with occasionally having an untucked shirt or not handing in homework.

But Mark Beard, who joined the all-boys private school as head in September, thinks liberal attitudes can make pupils “lazy”.

The 42-year-old said: “The reputation of the school in a liberal sense was that if you wanted to turn in your homework late then that’s fine.

“I have been keen to explain to the community here that liberal scholarship is not the same as liberal attitudes. School is a place of learning and a place where people work.

“There is a school uniform and it is to be worn properly; you should be punctual to lessons and if you have homework, you do your homework.”

The Hampstead resident, whose two sons attend UCS, said he would allow pupils to have untucked shirts when grabbing some lunch or playing football in the playground.

But he expects all students to come in looking smart for registration in the mornings and afternoons.

Speaking to the Ham&High this week, Mr Beard also criticised the government’s A-level and GCSE reforms, branding them a “right dogs dinner”.

He said education secretary Michael Gove’s decision to scrap A-level modules in favour of one single exam at the end of two years was “definitely flawed”.

Under current plans, the AS-level will become a separate qualification, meaning that students will not be able to continue AS subjects as full A-levels.

The headteacher said: “It is going back to the 1980s when I was at school. It is very narrow and limited whereas the AS and A2 system works really well.

“Often, students have a bit of breadth with the fourth subject [the AS level]. It means the nerdy scientist students can study history or music.

“I think it’s a right dog’s dinner.”

The married father-of-two, who has been in teaching for 18 years and for the last seven years at the co-educational private Brighton College in Brighton, said A-level reforms should not affect UCS pupils because most take four A-level subjects instead of the traditional three, giving them a wider choice of subjects to study.

But Mr Beard, who read chemistry at the University of Oxford, remains concerned about the impact of changes at a national level.

He has also criticised reforms to the GCSE grading system, which will mean exams are graded one to nine, with nine being the highest, rather than with the traditional A* to U letter system.

Mr Beard said universities will not get to grips with the numbered grading system for the first few years it is in place, resulting in applicants not receiving the right offers for places.

He said it will also confuse future employers.

“If there are two applicants, one with a bunch of new numbers and one with the traditional A*-C grades, which are they going to choose?”

It is thought that the changes to GCSEs will be brought in from September 2016.

A Department for Education spokesman said: “We are reforming exams to make them more rigorous and ensure they match those in the world’s best-performing education systems.

“The GCSE system had serious weaknesses and there was an urgent need to tackle grade inflation. We are restoring confidence in the qualifications by ending most coursework and scrapping the modular approach, which led to last year’s grading problems.

“We are involving our top universities in developing new A-levels to ensure young people are better prepared for work and higher education.

“Linear A-levels will end the constant treadmill of exams and ensure pupils develop a real understanding of a subject.”

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