New head for St George’s school in Harpenden
PUBLISHED: 12:40 10 July 2013 | UPDATED: 12:40 10 July 2013
IN engineering terms, the trajectory of St George’s new head in all probability should have taken him on a different bearing from the education sector – within the Royal Air Force (RAF).
Raymond McGovern readily admits that his route to becoming headmaster of the school on Sun Lane is “unusual” because his first job was as an engineer, not a teacher.
When he left school at the age of 16, Mr McGovern became an apprentice engineer as he had, “no intention of going into teaching”.
In fact, he really wanted to become either a pathologist or microbiologist.
But his father was keen for him to become an apprentice engineer and work in a factory.
In some ways this was no surprise as apart from continuing a family tradition, Mr McGovern was naturally curious about how things worked.
He explained: “I used to take everything apart as a child. I used to drive my teachers to distraction because they would say ‘That’s how it is’ and I would say, ‘I don’t care, how does it work?’ I was hugely inquisitive.
“I would ask questions about everything, whether it was mechanical, biological or electronic.”
So Mr McGovern became an apprentice but his fascination with aircraft led him to joining the Air Training Corps, where he found he enjoyed the structure and discipline.
He also had a stint as a Royal Navy Reserve and recalls being aboard a minesweeper that had been holed in mid-winter while out on exercise.
His commander said it had to be sailed to Edinburgh for repairs, which meant traversing some of the roughest seas around the British Isles.
Mr McGovern explained: “It was the most stomach-churning experience I’ve had in my life. Minesweepers are like corks in the water so they bob up and down, and it was quite terrifying.”
However his ambition was to join the RAF and his apprenticeship allowed him to do so because he had the necessary engineering background.
Mr McGovern became an aircraft engineer, doing maintenance and servicing, working on everything from landing gear to hydraulics.
At the end of his service, after nine years with the RAF, he was offered a job lecturing on aero-engineering at a college in Middlesex, which then led to a stint as a licensed teacher, training in the job, at Charles Darwin School in Kent.
After that he moved to Christ College, where he was head of technology, then house master, before leaving for Sexey’s, where he was headmaster.
He started his new role at St George’s in April this year after the retirement of Mr Hoare whom he knew very well as they were both members of the State Boarding Schools’ Association Management Committee, a national body representing day boarding schools.
It was thanks to Mr Hoare that he learned of the headmaster’s role becoming available.
Since moving to the town, Mr McGovern said he had found the school community “very friendly, welcoming and open.
“People have asked why we moved from beautiful Somerset to Hertfordshire, but Harpenden is located in a semi-rural area in the Green Belt so you have all the benefits of having a rural feel with the benefit of being able to get to a shop that doesn’t take you forever to get to.”
Mr McGovern’s plans for the school include updating systems, for example pupils’ reports, which are still paper-based.
He added: “We don’t exploit online communications and access to the website; so I want to modernise it so we can save money and use resources for other things.
“St George’s standards are already high but there is always room for improvement.
“However I want to make sure that whatever changes we make, we continue to respect the history and tradition of St George’s because that is what has made the school what it is.”