Johnian magazine issue 48, spring 2022
Stephen Munday: career spotlight
Awarded a CBE for services to education in 2013, Stephen Munday (1983) is currently Chief Executive of The Cam Academy Trust and President of the Chartered College of Teaching. A proud proponent of the comprehensive school ideal, Stephen shares with us some observations from his career.
‘Those who can, do; those who can’t, teach’. So said George Bernard Shaw in 1903. Rather better in my view, Sir Tim Brighouse, one of our great contemporary educationalists, stated more recently, ‘Doctors save lives, while teachers create them: indeed, without either, societies could not claim to be civilised.’ I go with Tim Brighouse.
Following an Economics degree and three wonderful years at St John’s, I trained to be an Economics teacher in London and qualified in 1987. Initially, this was perhaps motivated by not being particularly drawn to the careers often suggested to Economics graduates. However, it subsequently developed into a strong conviction of the remarkable importance and value of the teaching profession. I would not hesitate to recommend it, whilst confirming it is very hard work and has its meaningful challenges. There is little to beat seeing a young person develop an understanding and even a love of what they are learning.
Over time, I ended up in school leadership. Headship at Comberton Village College (a mixed comprehensive secondary school just west of Cambridge) led on to becoming Chief Executive of The Cam Academy Trust, a group of primary and secondary academies based mainly in Cambridgeshire. All schools in the Trust are fully comprehensive and we seek to ensure a truly excellent education for pupils of all types and backgrounds. Many of our pupils proceed to Russell Group universities; many receive additional support for various learning needs; we have centres in several schools to accommodate high-functioning autistic youngsters who otherwise could not access mainstream schools; and all pupils work and interact as a community learning about developing into positive citizens, mindful of others as well as themselves. While it has its challenges, there is much to be said for seeking to make a reality of the comprehensive school ideal.
The pandemic has been an extraordinary time for schools. So much could be said about this, but one thing is obvious from the whole experience. Schools are about so much more than enabling the acquisition of knowledge by young people. Actually, quite a lot of pupils have acquired knowledge very effectively through virtual means in the pandemic. But what about the socialisation of young people? What about supporting the learning and development of disadvantaged young people who lack easy home situations for good learning? What about developing good physical and mental health? Schools play a much broader role in society than we tend to recognise and this has been made (sometimes painfully) clear through the pandemic.
Currently, I am President of the Chartered College of Teaching, the developing professional body of the teaching profession. Through a bizarre accident of history, the teaching profession has never had its own established professional body, unlike many other professions. This perhaps partly explains why the status of the profession has not always been as high as it needs to be in our society. One day, we hope to have a teachers’ professional body that oversees standards and key qualifications for teachers in a proper, self-regulating profession. It is exciting to be helping to create that.
One incident on which to conclude. A number of years ago, I met a woman at an event and we realised that we recognised each other. She had been a pupil at a school where I had taught over 20 years ago. We reminisced, especially about a remarkable trip to Zimbabwe that I had helped to oversee where she had been involved with a group of students working in schools and a hospital. She reflected and said: ‘Do you know what, Mr Munday, that trip to Africa changed my life.’ Moments like these remind you that your career choice might not have been such a bad one.
Stephen is currently Chief Executive of The Cam Academy Trust and President of the Chartered College of Teaching. He was awarded a CBE for services to education in 2013.