Exam results culture prompts headteacher to leave state school sector after 25 years

Robert Lobatto, new head of King Alfred School. Picture: Nigel Sutton

Robert Lobatto, new head of King Alfred School. Picture: Nigel Sutton - Credit: Nigel Sutton

A headteacher who taught in state schools for nearly 25 years left for the private sector after becoming disillusioned with the government’s focus on exam results.

Robert Lobatto has taken the helm of King Alfred School in Golders Green, an independent school beloved by parents for its emphasis on pastoral care.

That ethos is what drove Mr Lobatto to take on the role, after becoming increasingly concerned that the state sector places too much importance on academic performance.

He said: “It was getting too narrow and overly focused just on academic outcomes. There’s so much pressure from above on schools.

“It was a big decision [to leave the state sector],” added Mr Lobatto, 48, of Crouch End. “I believe in accountability and I welcome it, but the accountability was focusing on a very narrow set of metrics.

“It was taking me away from what I thought was important.”

Mr Lobatto is taking over as head from Dawn Moore, who left in July to work in youth mental health after 12 years in the role and nearly 30 years after she first started teaching at the North End Road school.

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He is committed to keeping in place her vision of balancing high academic standards with a focus on pupils’ mental and emotional wellbeing.

Those issues will be in discussion at the school’s annual education conference on October 10, which will focus on the challenges of teaching children in the digital age.

“This is the first generation of digital natives,” Mr Lobatto said. “Something came out last week about how kids are waking up in the middle of the night to check social media. That can’t be healthy for young people to be always ‘on’ and never ‘off’.

“We want to empower kids so that they are in control of technology rather than technology being in control of them.”

Mr Lobatto grew up in Cockfosters and attended the renowned independent Haberdashers’ Aske’s Boys’ School in Hertfordshire before studying at Jesus College, Oxford.

He started his career as a history teacher at East Barnet School in Barnet before landing a role as head of humanities at Highbury Fields School in Highbury Fields.

He then served as deputy headteacher at Liskeard Community School in Plaistow before becoming executive headteacher at Barnhill Community High School in 2008.

While acting as the school’s leader, he was asked by the Department for Education to oversee the management of a nearby primary academy school under the banner of the Barnhill Partnership Trust.

This academic year is his 25th as a teacher.

“I had heard of King Alfred because I grew up in north London so the school had some interest for me,” he said. “It’s a school that is very much in line with my personal philosophy, so it was a great opportunity to come and be the headteacher of a school I wanted to lead.”