Helen Wright meets James Handscombe, founding principal of Harris Westminster Sixth Form in London.
He talks in depth about being appointed to the leadership of Harris Westminster in 2014, as it was set up as a partnership between Harris Academies and Westminster School. The aim was to provide a state-funded sixth form for more able students from disadvantaged backgrounds that would prepare them for entry to top universities and careers.
Handscombe describes how he was uniquely positioned to understand the brief of leading the school, as he went to a comprehensive himself and ended up studying maths at Oxford and Harvard universities.
Handscombe talks about the challenges of getting the school up and running, understanding the “power of ethos” and his desire to make a longterm difference in pupils’ lives. He talks about his own “sheltered, monocultural upbringing” in Sheffield and how working in London has given him a whole new set of perspectives.
He talks about the future and his role as executive principal of both Harris Westminster and the new Harris Clapham Sixth Form.