Building the Crown

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Building the Crown 2nd Edition

Contents 1

Founder’s introduction – pg. 5


What is Dukes? – pg. 15


How we do things – pg. 25


Our family values – pg. 37


Closing thoughts – pg. 59



In 2015, I founded Dukes Education. The beginning of our story is very simple. I wanted to do something I truly loved - and I love developing young people. From early experiences of leading sports teams, cadets, and kids charities, to watching my own son and daughter grow up, developing young people has always been the thing that inspires me most – and it is this that gives me my passion for leading schools.

Chapter 1

6 Aatif Hassan, Founder of Dukes Education

Founder's introduction

My own school was transformative for me. It was a place where I found encouragement to help me through growing up with dyslexia. I made great friends – some of whom have joined me all these years later at Dukes to try to achieve something truly special for the young people in our care. We were a lot smaller when we started out, but we already had big dreams for the future.

we were doing. Education is a matter of hearts and minds, a relationship between teacher, parent, and pupil. Get that right and we’d go places. So we wrote and published the first edition of this little book. It seemed like a slightly odd thing for a fledgling start-up to do – to spend time and resources on putting together a book about how we’d work together. But Building the Crown was a statement of intent: We were here to do this a better way – a way where close relationships, a strong sense of communal purpose, and extraordinary performance defined us. So far it’s worked pretty well. As we’ve grown, some of the details may have changed a bit, but each time I come back to reread Building the Crown, I find that the core ideas we set out at the beginning are still held to by the wider Dukes family, today.


From the very beginning, I knew that the most important thing to get right – far more important than operations or management or organisational structures – was a strong culture that put human beings front and centre of everything

Chapter 1

The ‘Common Thread’ This, the second edition of Building the Crown, sets out in simple terms the ‘Why’, ‘What’, and ‘How’ of Dukes. And it explores the four values that guide our incredible team. Together, these elements form a common thread that weaves through every Dukes school and organisation - binding our extraordinary family together.


The ‘Crown’ On every publication, email, or letter from Dukes Education, you will see a small ‘crown’ next to our name. When Dukes began, we decided to use an image that expressed everything we wanted to be. The Dukes Crown symbolises our ambition to be at the absolute top of the education sector - a mark of recognised quality. It also symbolises the ambition of our students and parents. They come to us for their education because, in their own way, they want to build a crown of achievement themselves.


Founder's introduction

Chapter 1


Founder's introduction

Successful families provide the space for each member of the family to grow, while providing support and guidance whenever needed. Successful families have shared values, a sense of belonging, and a sense of humour. Above all, they keep communicating.


Mark Bailey, Managing Director

Chapter 1

12 Clockwise from left Caps and coats for a trip with The Lyceum. A duet of Bach’s Cello Suite No. 1 in the music room at Cardiff Sixth Form College. Staying safe together at Knightsbridge School.


Founder's introduction


W H AT I S D U K E S ?

Dukes is a family of schools, teachers, young learners, and parents – working together to achieve an extraordinary life for young people through education. We’ve connected teams of individuals who are already driving this in their own schools and communities.

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Schools T h e Clu b



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Chapter 2

Little Dukes

The Dukes Model - an all-through collection of nurseries, schools, and colleges for ages 0 - 18+, surrounded by complementary educational opportunities.

What is Dukes?

Each school is outstanding and unique, led by some of the best educationalists in the world. By coming together, our Headteachers, staff, and ultimately, our pupils have secure foundations from which to be adventurous, learn more, and access more opportunities.


This connectivity extends to education offerings beyond the classroom. A collection of further Dukes organisations surrounds our schools. These are carefully curated to offer our students the very best opportunities for developing their talents and pursuing their ambitions. As a family, we want to be with our pupils the whole way through their journey, as they ready themselves to take their next steps in life.

Chapter 2

It’s simple really...


Good people,

Candida Cave, Principal of Hampstead Fine Arts College


What is Dukes?

who want to

work hard.

Chapter 2

It’s simple really. Dukes collects people who are good people. Really lovely people, who want to work hard. That’s where I see the similarity between my college and the others at Dukes. I think the common values that we seem to have are all concerned with quality. The type of education we offer in each place is different, but quality is all-important. Candida Cave, Principal of Hampstead Fine Arts College


When we operate with high levels of self-awareness, we don’t get in the way of ourselves. For me, this allows me to bring out the best in the people who make Dukes great. To offer them a space where they can feel safe enough to be ambitious, progress - be truly brilliant. Glenn Hawkins, Managing Director


What is Dukes?

Chapter 2



What is Dukes?

Clockwise from top “Can anyone tell me any other adjectives?” English lessons at Eaton Square School. Creative brainstorming at Hampstead Fine Arts College. Sharing secrets at Twickenham Park Day Nursery.


If you look back to the past, great education has been the same for thousands of years: quality teachers spending quality time with students. Simple, but not easy - and unfortunately, not as common as we’d like. So we do a few things in new ways, to try to make sure we are getting this key element right every day, for every pupil.

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1. We think long-term. Dukes may be young, but many of our schools have been around for a long time. Without exception, this is because they think long-term. All our decision-making is shaped by a goal to build schools that are not just excelling now, but are set up for an extraordinary future.

2. We have a decentralised structure, with autonomous teams. 26 Classrooms are fast-paced places. Terms whizz by faster every year. It is only by empowering our teams on the ground that we can meet the daily needs of our staff, students, and parents. We have a central team to provide support and security, but we keep it small. It’s up to our schools and organisations to lead themselves - because they’re better at it.

How we do things

We rather like the fact that the Dukes schools are not necessarily a logical fit. Different educational DNA, very different personalities, very different feels. We want there to be respect and celebration of the individual parts - and in fact this difference has become one of our distinguishing features.


Alistair Brownlow, Principal of Rochester Independent College

Chapter 3


How we do things

3. We ask - what are the pupils thinking?


It might seem an unusual question to hear in every catch up or Governors’ meeting. But we think listening to our pupils what they’re saying and what they’re not saying - and acting on what we learn is the single most important factor that will define our continued success.

Chapter 3

4. We’re bound together by a common thread. The Dukes schools and organisations are a diverse bunch. If our staff, students, and parents are going to benefit from coming together, there must be something that really binds us. For Dukes, this comes from our common thread: the four values we live by, which we explore in this book. For a new team to join the family, they must live and breathe these values - but we encourage each organisation to bring them to life in their own, unique way.



How we do things

Chapter 3

It’s clear that


how we do things at Dukes

Libby Nicholas, Managing Director

is valued as highly as


How we do things


we do.

Chapter 3

34 Clockwise from left Intense debate at Earlscliffe’s summer school. Contemplating the future at Dukes Education’s Young Person’s Medical Conference. Magic and mischief at Eaton Square Nursery School.


How we do things


Each school or organisation that forms part of the Dukes family is unique. All have their own origins, stories, communities. Their own way of doing things. But there is a common thread that weaves through the whole family, drawing us together and making us stronger. Our four values keep us grounded through each vibrant and crazy term, steering us and reminding us of what’s really important. Though each school has its own code and ethos, it is only a Dukes school if it shares these values.

Chapter 4

1. We lead with heart. When it comes to education, if your heart’s not in it, the magic just isn’t going to happen. This is why, when we started, we asked everyone at Dukes, “What makes your heart sing?” We believe - in this fundamentally human pursuit of teaching and learning - leading from the heart is the way to make a real difference to our staff, parents, and, most importantly, the young people in our care.


You can’t inspire people without really connecting with them. When you turn up to work and you’ve got young people in front of you, you’ve got to really… turn up. Be present. The energy that a teacher brings to their role is really important as it governs the nature of that connection. Richard Fletcher, Director of Performance


Our family values


Chapter 4

You’ve got to really 40

Richard Fletcher, Director of Performance



Our family values

Be present.

Chapter 4

We are not just teachers. We are the guardians of the world’s most precious resource. Aimee Kimbell, Principal of Riverside Nurseries

When parents send their children to a school, it is an emotional decision. They’re the most precious thing in their lives. Schools are emotionally driven. That’s what we have to hold on to and remember. Schools can’t operate like a business because we’re dealing with children. And that supersedes everything else.


Sebastian Hepher, Principal of Eaton Square School

Our family values

I saw a post on Instagram from a student about their summer school experience with us - they thanked their teachers and said it was the best time of their life so far. It ended with the phrase, “Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.” After an unashamed tear of my own, I went to give a welcome talk to next season’s staff with overwhelming motivation and eagerness to ensure every student had the chance to make memories the same way.


Sam Holderness, Director of Summer Boarding Courses

Chapter 4

2. We love learning. “Ancora imparo,” Michelangelo said. “I’m still learning.” We believe in the joy of learning at every stage of life. Everyone in our family is passionate about the power and value of education. But more than that - they’re addicted to it themselves. In many of our schools, our teachers practise their disciplines outside the classroom, one day a week. Some staff have taken A-levels in their spare time, for fun! And, as an organisation, we aspire to offer our people the best training and development programmes that exist out there.

44 I’m quite a creative person - and I find it so exciting to be able to go into a school and think - what’s going to happen today? Which is infectious for the staff because they’re full of ideas. They feel they can come in and if they’ve got a good idea we can look at it. Is it a good idea? Then let’s change! Let’s go in that direction. Education needs to be fluid, so that we can always develop the school into something truly extraordinary for the children. Hilary Wyatt, Head of The Lyceum


Our family values

Chapter 4

Teaching is not a desk job. It’s tiring. You do it out of love. You’re born to do it. Victoria O’Brien, Director of Little Dukes


Our family values

We want to get the best out of all our pupils, both inside and outside the classroom. When we focus on encouragement rather than pressure, they experience a rounded education which helps future-proof them for whatever might lie ahead in their lives.


Darryl Wideman, Head of Radnor House Twickenham

Chapter 4

3. We’re a team. No one can achieve truly extraordinary things, alone. But when you bring people together who share a common purpose and a common set of principles, extraordinary things really do happen. Teaching and leading schools can be isolating - even lonely. But as part of a wider family, our schools and organisations have support, people to learn from, and someone to say, “Well done!” when they’ve achieved amazing things.


Of course, teams work best when each member feels autonomous - free to take action and make an impact. This is why we keep our structure flat, trusting each individual to lead themselves.


Our family values

Chapter 4

I realised that Dukes was what I wanted for Sancton Wood when Aatif introduced me to all the other Principals, Heads, and everyone involved in Dukes. These people were really decent, kind, inspiring people – why wouldn’t I want the school to be part of that? What I’d glimpsed there was what I wanted for all my teachers and all my children. Richard Settle, Principal of Sancton Wood School


Our family values

Being able to go and have a look at how things are done in Cardiff, Folkestone, or Rochester is invaluable. We share best practice all the time. This cross-pollination is our biggest advantage - sharing how we do things and achieving more together.


Tim Fish, Managing Director

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4. We do it well. It’s a rather extraordinary thing when someone trusts you with the learning, development, and wellbeing of their child. Our standards are extremely high because they absolutely have to be. We take this responsibility very seriously. We expect the best from - and for - everyone in the family. Excellence in education underpins everything we do. Because it is only once you have a solid foundation of excellence that you can really begin to have fun.

52 Always going the extra mile is crucial to our culture. Often it’s our staff’s passion and determination that get students back on track. Ed Smallwood, Director of A-List Education UK


Our family values

Chapter 4


Our family values

Our students can absorb knowledge like nobody’s business. Our job is to teach them how to apply this knowledge, not just how to learn the knowledge – and we go to great lengths to ensure that the understanding has been absorbed. If a method’s not working for one student, they’ll work with another teacher, with a different point of view, a different way of explaining it. We’ll keep checking in until they’re comfortable with the subject and understanding it.

This school is my baby. I’ve worked my socks off for 20-odd years, building everything about it. And that’s what we’ve got to get across to anyone who works for Dukes – it’s work-hard, play-hard. The staff that thrive here are the ones who focus on getting the kids to the zenith of where they’re trying to get to. Magoo Giles, Principal of Knightsbridge School


Gareth Collier, Principal of Cardiff Sixth Form College

Chapter 4



Our family values

Clockwise from top Graphic design in the studio at Rochester Independent College. Epiphany at The Lyceum. Parallel parking at Miss Daisy’s Nursery.


You need to know where you are going if you’re going to get to the finish line. Winning starts with purpose, is powered by it, is sustained by it. A purposeful organisation led with heart and intent is powerful, especially when focused on a cause as important as inspiring the next generation.

Chapter 5

An intangible and exceptional passion and warmth can be felt throughout Dukes. This is our culture. It stems from the alignment of our purpose with our values: We lead with heart; We love learning; We’re a team, and We do it well. Often organisations focus on how to do it better than others. Whilst it would be naïve never to look at the competition, we are firmly focused on our own game and our own values. We expect a different level of performance. We’re not just here to “do things better” but to “do things differently”.


Our teams have an insatiable and contagious curiosity in every element of the teaching and learning discipline. They have an unending willingness to discover more to enhance their expertise. They understand that learning is the pathway to innovation and that getting better never stops. Culture gives us belief, belonging, and direction. It does not put people in handcuffs; it actually provides an environment in which personalities can flourish. A strong culture allows our gifted leaders more freedom to operate because they know where the line is drawn. They’re clear on what our values are and they can make a choice as to whether these values align with their own.

Closing thoughts

“Know thyself”. So the Delphic maxim goes. Our leadership approach takes this to heart, focusing on helping develop care, wellbeing, and love of oneself. We want to make our teams and our leaders better. We want to be known as the best organisation in the sector for developing and caring for our people.



Why? Because behind purpose, behind values, behind culture – you’ll always find people. It is our talented and inspirational people that make this organisation stand out. They wear the crown with pride. They are the secret sauce and the glue. And that’s why,

62 Acknowledgements Dukes relies on the work of an exceptional team of passionate experts. They serve us, our students, and humanity sincerely. I’m forever grateful for their friendship and support. I would specifically like to thank Mark, Candy, Glenn, Alistair, Libby, Richard, Aimee, Sebastian, Sam, Hilary, Victoria, Darryl, Richard, Tim, Ed, Gareth, Magoo, Olivia, and Olive. I would also like to thank Jeremy, Jerry, and David for their support in launching this exciting venture. The most important recognition must be reserved for my biggest inspiration – my children, Yusaf and Aila.