First thing

The way they start their day: 16. Nicholas Bomford; Head Master of Harrow School
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Indy Lifestyle Online
My alarm is always set for 6.55am, and I wake to the weather forecast and the news on Radio 4. I'm dimly aware of it, anyway. Crunch time is nine minutes past seven, at the end of the news, when I leap out of bed to exercise my spaniel.

The house is a very modern one, and is designed for the living quarters to be upstairs and the sleeping quarters to be downstairs. There's a small spare room that I use as a dressing room, so I find my way across to that, shower, shave and normally pull on a fairly ancient sweater and a pair of corduroys. I will change into a suit for business after breakfast. I then have a walk of about 15 minutes, the latter part of which will be quite a brisk, uphill walk. A feature of living in Harrow-on-the-Hill is the hill itself, and the last 500 yards are something of a test of my physical fitness.

My wife gets up after I've left for my walk. Although she's off the Hill one day a week doing an art history course, I regard her as a full-time head master's wife; she's very much involved with the social side of the school. We have to entertain a lot, too, and she's central to that. She also tries to keep a very close eye on the families of the members of staff. All the academic staff are required to live on the Hill, so there's a big school community here.

By the time I get back, she will have laid out breakfast - fruit juice, coffee, and either, in the winter, porridge, or, for the rest of the year, muesli. I don't really get a chance to read a newspaper, though my wife reads The Independent, which arrives in time for her to look at after breakfast. I have a copy of The Times in my study when I get there, and I try to snatch a quick look.

It takes all of two minutes - a walk through a terraced garden - to get to my study, and I aim to arrive there by 8 o'clock. My marvellous secretary gets in at about 7.15, and she will have gone through my mail and put it on my desk, if it has come in time. From then, until 8.30, I'm doing routine school business, and am available to boys if they want to see me - to get permission to do something, or to bring good work - or if they're sent to me for punishment. And, at about 20 past 8, the head boy, sometimes accompanied by his deputy, comes to talk about current issues and any matters he wants to raise.

At 8.38, I leave my study and go to the chapel; there's a short service every day from Tuesday to Friday that I always attend. I suspect I'm one of the few head masters still to wear a gown and mortarboard for these occasions, the mortarboard largely because the boys have to wear or carry a Harrow hat. It's customary that they take their hats off to me, and I like to be able to exchange the courtesy.

There's a slight variation on Monday, when at 8 o'clock I meet my second master and the director of studies for a half-hour look at the week ahead. At 8.40, I meet the whole school in the building called the Speech Room - a splendid semi-circular room built in the 1870s, which represents the heart of the school. It can take all 780 boys, and they're joined by the academic staff. I announce the winners of prize competitions, and run through the main notices of events for the week.

At 9 o'clock, I return to my study to whatever the day holds. There is no such thing as a typical day, and I do very little teaching - only three periods a week of history. Thereafter, it's a series of appointments with masters, and I have regular meetings with the bursar, the school doctor, and the school chaplains, as well as additional meetings with the second master and the director of studies. Occasionally, I have to see parents, especially those of boys who are in a bit of trouble. But, in dealing with 780 boys between 13 and 18 years of age, I have to say that there are constant surprises. One is often wondering, certainly in the early part of the morning, what the day has in store - in contrast to what you know is going to happen.

Interview by Scott Hughes

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