Kieran McLaughlin

Profile of the Principal, Mr Kieran McLaughlin

Kieran McLaughlin has been the Headmaster at Durham School since 2014.  On 1 February 2021 he will become Principal of Durham Cathedral Schools Foundation.

Where did you grow up? 

I was born in Liverpool and lived there until I left for university, although I don’t have much of an accent anymore!  

Where did you go to university and what did you study? 

I went to the University of Cambridge, where I studied Natural Sciences and Theoretical and Mathematical Physics. 

Can you outline the career path which brought you to Durham School? 

I began teaching in 1995 and at the beginning of my career, I taught Physics in three highly academic day schools in London. Prior to coming to Durham in 2014, I was the Deputy Academic Head at Rugby School in the Midlands. Before that, I was Head of Science and Technology at Sevenoaks School in Kent.  

What were you like at school?  

It’s fair to say I had a variety of interests during my schooldays. I was a black belt in Jujitsu, I played bass in the school band and I was captain of the school Bridge team!  I was always reasonably good at academic subjects too, though and did well in tests and exams. 

When did the idea to pursue a career in teaching take hold? 

It was quite early on. When I was at school, I started considering it seriously and then in my second year at Cambridge I did some volunteering at a local secondary school, helping in a science class. That helped me formulate the idea that I might want to be a Physics teacher. 

What was the attraction of teaching? 

Some people say teachers come in two types – those who love their subject and those who love working with children. I don’t subscribe to the view that you’re one or the other. It’s certainly a bit of both for me.  

Have your motivations remained the same? 

Playing a part in children achieving their potential and seeing those lightbulb moments never loses its appeal. Although my job is obviously very different now, the best bit of my day is always spending time with the children, whether that’s doing a bit of teaching, seeing every child on their birthday or talking to sixth formers about their lives and ambitions beyond Durham School. When you’re a Physics teacher, you want to make a difference in the classroom – getting the children to enjoy and do well in that subject. As a Head, you want to make a difference to the school – to make it a more successful environment and a nice and welcoming place for the children to come and enjoy learning. 

What have you brought to Durham School? 

You could point at lots of different things, but the overarching drive has been – and is – to make the experience of the children better in every way when they come here; enabling them to leave with really strong qualifications and wide horizons having had the opportunity to experience and get involved with lots of different things during their time at Durham School. 

What is your proudest achievement from your time at Durham School so far? 

There has been a stronger focus on academic life in the School over the past few years and academic results have improved during that time, which is obviously a really positive thing. We’ve also worked hard to widen the outreach programme, which allows pupils from the local area to access the School through means-tested bursaries. We have a great track record of pupils going off to Oxford and Cambridge on the back of those bursary programmes. As a school, we can certainly take pride in giving them transformational opportunities, which they will benefit from for the rest of their lives. 

What do you like to do when you’re not at work? 

Family time is my main focus when I’m not at school and that is often taken up with me being a taxi driver, taking my kids to their various sports clubs and activities!  Travel has always been a passion and we like to go on holidays together.  

What are your favourite things about the North East? 

Living in the region has been a real revelation from a family point of view. I have three relatively young children and the great thing about the North East is the huge variety of things you can do. From amazing beaches to beautiful countryside. Everything you could want is pretty much on your doorstep. Durham is a great place to live – small but perfectly formed!  

Quickfire questions from the children: 

Do you support any sports team other than your school teams?  

I support Liverpool Football Club… I used to live within earshot of Anfield when I was growing up. I also support Durham County Cricket Club. 

What’s your favourite film? 

Paris Texas. 

Where’s the best place you’ve travelled to? 

South Africa on holiday a long time ago. 

Do you speak any other languages? 

School boy French and Spanish – nothing to write home about! 

What’s your favourite sport to watch and play? 

My favourite sport to watch is probably football. To play, I would say squash. 

What was your favourite lesson at school? 

Maths. It wasn’t until I took a gap year between school and university that I decided I wanted to do Physics instead of Maths. 

What’s your favourite food? 

Thai food. Thai Green Curry is great.