After 16 years as Executive Principal at Thomas More College, Shane Cuthbertson is retiring. We look back over his time at the school
“My time in education has been both stimulating and challenging, and I am looking forward to doing as little as possible for the first six months of my retirement,” Mr Cuthbertson says.
“I have spent 20 years as a headmaster, which comes with a lot of responsibility and constant dramas. It will be a relief to know that those should (hopefully) be less frequent. It will also be a good opportunity to spend time with family.”
Mr Cuthbertson has always loved the outdoors and studied zoology and botany before becoming a teacher in 1979. He counts hiking, birding and scuba diving among his favourite pastimes. Shane and his wife, Carolyn, who is Head of Junior Primary at St Mary’s DSG, love to travel, so that’s also on the agenda.
The next few months will include many farewells, not only at Thomas More, but also with the committees that Mr Cuthbertson has been a part of. These include being on the Executive Committee of the Independent Schools Association of South Africa (ISASA), and the Southern African Heads of Independent Schools Association, of which Shane has been national chairperson for the past two years. He also has a seat on the Council of the African Confederation of Principals and the International Confederation of Principals.
“I am grateful to our school for allowing me to reach out in this way,” Mr Cuthbertson says. “It has allowed me to gain a broader picture of education in South Africa, sharing learning with schools, near and far, and giving Thomas More College a national reputation.”
One of Shane’s focuses has been on the professional development of teachers. “Education has changed and principals are now, ultimately, business managers. With increased competition between independent and chain schools, it is vital that schools are business savvy. This requires continued learning for aspirant heads. Through ISASA, we have been liaising with tertiary institutions, including WITS University and Varsity College, to cater to these needs.”
Mr Cuthbertson has also worked towards establishing a framework for independent schools across the country to share information, leveraging the power of shared knowledge.
During his time at Thomas More, the school has grown to be the largest independent school in KwaZulu-Natal, gaining 39 classrooms, an AstroTurf, heated swimming pool, hockey field and more. “My role has had two main parts – that of educator and designer, as I worked to ensure that our pupils have the very best facilities today and into the future.”
When asked about some of the highlights of his career, Mr Cuthbertson mentions the evolution of the student leadership model at TMC, which sees each child valued for their contribution, as well as the introduction of the Participation Points System in the High School, which allows each child to pursue their own passions. “This has seen cultural activities boom,” he says.
“Thomas More is the most incredible environment to work in and I have loved the variety of being head.” There is no doubt that Mr Cuthbertson’s influence will be felt for years to come.