Talking Heads: Streatham & Clapham High School, GDST
Dr Millan Sachania has been Head Master at Streatham & Clapham High School since 2012. He is a trained pianist, with a PhD in music from Cambridge where he has also taught. He has a passion for music and education and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.
How and why did you get into education?
I love people, and I love music and both led me into the world of education.
Music is all about change, just as education is. Music-making is about trying to motivate yourself or a group of people to arrive at a different position from where they started.
Education is the same thing, it’s about leading people from one place to another. There’s nothing as wonderful, or as powerful, as being responsible for changing, shaping, nurturing young people’s minds.
Growing up, did you have any role models?
Apart from my parents, I wouldn’t say I had specific role models, because I have always wanted to be my authentic self. There have of course been pianists I’ve looked up to, thinking, ‘I wish I could play like that’, but I’ve never wanted to emulate other pianists’ interpretative styles.
Authenticity is key to my leadership of the school. There should be no such thing as a typical ‘SCHS girl’. I want each girl to be her authentic self. And that’s what school life is about. Academic excellence, of course; but when I think about what I want for the girls, not only do I want them to achieve the best grades of which they are capable, but I also want them to experiment with and undertake as many endeavours as possible. Only through such enterprise can they discover their authentic characters.
What does being part of the GDST family mean to you?
There are many great things about the GDST, the alumnae network, opportunities for collaboration, inter-school tournaments, or having a network to tap in to. Ultimately, the best thing is the sense of shared values – our brilliant community entirely focused on enabling girls to learn without limits.
What do you say to girls aspiring to be future leaders?
Be yourself. Derive your leadership from who you are, not from what other people are. To be a good leader you need emotional intelligence, empathy, courage and conviction. You need good interpersonal skills, a vision and drive. But most importantly, you need to be authentic.
Can you tell us some exciting developments at Streatham and Clapham?
Our estate is looking better than ever. We have our fantastic new Sixth Form, a new Dining Hall, a new Reception, and an atrium with a fountain! The most exciting to me is the Dining Hall. It’s spacious, with wide angles, a high ceiling and round tables. The brief I gave the architects is to create a space that enables transactions, flow and interaction.
Goethe once said: “architecture is frozen music”. I don’t think that’s right at all. I think architecture is about movement, flow, and the transition from one place to another. That’s exactly what education is about, and for this reason the architecture of the dining room reflects my educational vision.
Our old Reception, which was in the centre of our main building, will be turned in an art gallery showcasing our pupil’s creativity. Creativity is important in all areas, whether it’s maths, music, art or sport; creativity is at the heart of what it is to be human. Such a creative space at the heart of our school would be an apt emblem of our humanity.
My Fair Lady.
One of our alumna, Elizabeth Llewellyn, is now a successful opera singer. She recently visited the school to speak to the girls and passed on the feedback she’d been given after an unsuccessful audition: “They told me ‘the role is too small for you; you should go for the big one. Always go further.”
That’s my favourite quote of the moment: “Always go further”.