‘It Was Like Being Given The Keys To The Sweet Shop’

19th August 2022

Retired Highfield Headmaster Phillip Evitt has described his time at the helm as “being like a child given the keys to the sweet shop”.

Mr Evitt left Highfield at the end of July after 23 “wonderful” years in the role – and the affable headmaster with a penchant for history said that his love of all things Highfield and Brookham was as strong on the day he left as it was when he made the move from Dulwich School in 1999.

“This is a community that cares, that supports, that cherishes and nurtures and, for me, as long as I have been in education I have always felt strongly that schools should be places of joy, wonder, enchantment, delight, challenge and risk taking,” he said.

“Just to have that endless enthusiasm, that genuine belief that actually everything is possible, that they (the children) can take risks, that they can say things, that people aren’t going to think they’re idiots is just so enriching, so enlivening and so wonderful.”

Mr Evitt, who taught history at Monmouth School just over the border in Wales prior to moving to south London, cited dedicated teachers and staff members “who love children, are passionate about them, who care about them and who want them to make a difference” as a major reason for his educational longevity at Highfield.

“What makes Highfield the place that it is is colleagues who are genuinely passionate about their charges,” he said, “and I have been incredibly blessed with the colleagues that it has been my privilege and pleasure to lead.”

But Mr Evitt, who was readily assisted in all aspects of school life in unstinting fashion by wife Jo and whose four children were educated at Highfield, saved special praise for his pupils, saying he felt “incredibly lucky” to lead young people for whom the sky was the limit.

He said: “Remembering that they are children and that they are children capable of doing extraordinary things is what made my time at Highfield so extraordinarily magical.

“What’s great is being with young people. Yes, it’s working to encourage them but it’s seeing how much they do and achieve through their own energy when you give them the opportunity to do that. I really feel like a child that has been given the keys to the sweet shop.”

Mr Evitt, 63, has been succeeded at Highfield by Suzannah Cryer, formerly deputy head at Thomas’ Battersea Prep. Mrs Cryer is no stranger to Highfield and Brookham, having previously worked as Head of Drama and Head of Boarding. Mr Evitt said: “I know that the school is in incredibly safe hands with the appointment of Suzannah, who was always a firm favourite with pupils, staff and parents alike during her previous time at Highfield and Brookham. She will undoubtedly bring fresh energy, enthusiasm and ideas to the role, underpinned by her existing knowledge of the school’s special DNA.”