HEAD Space with Wellington College


James Dahl, new Head of Wellington College on the dreams, passions and experiences that have shaped him.


Who or what inspired you to teach? 

Three things: firstly, my grandfather was a Headmaster and my aunt a Deputy Head, so there may be a genetic explanation; secondly, I absolutely loved my own school years, particularly my Sixth Form at Haileybury; thirdly, the ability to influence, shape and help transform the lives of young people is the greatest privilege there is.  

Do you have an all time favourite book? 

Vergil’s Aeneid. The human experience in its entirety can be found somewhere in it. 

 What sort of music do you listen to? Favourite piece or song? 

Primarily classical and opera, but I also do a good line in late 1990s house and techno! Wagner’s Götterdämmerung is unsurpassed. If I could only listen to Act 3 for the rest of my life, I would die happy.  

Favourite play or musical? 

I saw Hamilton earlier this year – it is a remarkable piece of theatre. Truly ground-breaking and breath-taking to experience in the flesh.   

What is your personal motto in life? 

suis non sibi semper – “For your team, and not yourself, always” 

If you could only bring 3 things to a desert island what would they be? 

My family, a cocktail-making kit, my Spotify account. 

 Who would your 5 ideal dinner guests be (famous, living or dead)? 

I’d like to make it quite punchy! The 1st Duke of Wellington, Napoleon, Julius Caesar, Pericles and Garibaldi. 

 If you were invisible for the day what would you do? 

Walk around the final day of the Masters at Augusta with the final group. 

 What is your greatest achievement? 

It’s a cliché but becoming the 15th Master of Wellington College takes some beating. 

 If you weren’t headmaster, what would your dream job be? 

I wanted to become a DJ for much of my teenage years. I still have my decks and my record collection so perhaps the dream might still happen one day! 

Top 3 app’s on your phone? 

Twitter, The Times, Spotify

 Greatest all time movie? 

The Shawshank Redemption takes some beating. 

 What was your favourite subject at school? 

Probably Politics, but I loved Latin and Greek too. 

 Any signature dishes? 

I make a mean Crème Brûlée ice-cream. 

 One thing you always make sure you have on your desk? 

A picture of my daughter, Elsie.  

As the new Head, what do you hope to bring to Wellington? 

Energy, visibility, enthusiasm, clarity of purpose, and warmth.  

 Why, in your opinion is your school best? 

I don’t think any schools are the ‘best’. Different schools are the best fit for different pupils. I do, however, think that Wellington’s relentless focus on improvement, ‘can do’ attitude, universally high standards across everything we do, and stunning grounds make us hard to beat. 

 What three things do you need to be a successful headmaster? 

Only three?! Vision, values, and a sense of humour. 

What is the best advice you would give one of your new school joiners? 

Work hard, be kind and respectful, pursue every co-curricular opportunity which takes your fancy, and be yourself.  

 In one sentence, what is your school’s ethos? 

To provide a genuinely holistic education which a) is inspiring and transformational b) supports all pupils to be happy, flourish and become the best they can be and c) prepares them for a world which doesn’t yet exist. 


Love getting an insight into what goes on in a Head’s head?! Then why not see if yours has featured yet in our HEAD Space series 



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