Nicholas Sampson, Headmaster, 2012 – present
From the very beginning of his headmastership, Mr Nicholas Sampson, the eighth incumbent in that position, committed himself to uphold the values set down by his predecessors and planned blueprints for the future. He clearly stated that no two headmasters were alike, and that this diversity was important in maintaining the different ethos which Cranbrook embodies.
During his early education, Mr Sampson won a place at a local selective school and then was accepted into Cambridge University, where he read English literature. At Cambridge, he was taught to learn and explore through reading by his college tutor, an Australian academic from Melbourne. As a result of this tertiary education, reading and conversations about what he has read have become one of the cornerstones of his commitment to the learning process.
After completing his years at university, he entered the public service, which he disliked, and when he was invited to view a school in session, he was so entranced by the experience that he remarked, "I didn’t realise that you were paid for doing something so wonderful". He immediately joined the teaching profession and began an exciting life’s journey.
Following upon his time in Australia in 1988 on exchange, he returned in 2000 as the Headmaster of Geelong Grammar School at Corio, Victoria, where he worked for four years leading one of Australia’s great schools. He returned to England after he was appointed as Master of Marlborough College, Wiltshire. There he introduced a new subject for all students, called Form, which he once described as being the very basis of a liberal education. He also had the Marlborough Mound recognised as a major archaeological site which dated back over four and half thousand years and he opened a new boarding house for the female students of the college. A partnership with a failing state school was formed and the unique foundation of Marlborough College Malaysia was introduced through a partnership with the Malaysian government.
From the time of his first address to Cranbrook School in 2012, Mr Sampson has continued to emphasise that the heart of the Cranbrook educational foundation, character and philosophy is integrity. A commitment to this philosophy has allowed the school to overcome the vagaries of social trends and educational fashion. He has underpinned this commitment through a passionate belief in adhering to the tenets of a civilised life, which he has always connected to a global context.
Over the short time he has been Headmaster, he has encouraged renewal in every sphere of school life, always reflecting the cherished differences for which Cranbrook is renowned. He has challenged all students to do better, to have conversations with each other in the newly renovated spaces, and in the planned structural changes of the school environment, which, Sampson believes, underpins the ‘gentle strength’ of this school.
Over the space of the past six years, Mr Sampson has overseen renewal in the boarding houses and the Governor’s Ballroom (2013–2015), the opening of the Year 12 College (2014, located in the Cranbrook Building), the purchase and formative development of the Wolgan Valley site (2013, 2016–2017), the complete refurbishment of the Senior School Building (2017), the development of Stage 2 of the Master Plan for the Bellevue Hill campus and the introduction of the Middle Years Programme of the International Baccalaureate's Course of Study into Years 7–10 (during 2016–2018). These have all significantly renewed and developed the school, while maintaining true to the visions of the founders of 1918. The numerous and exciting events of the centenary year (2018) have also exhibited the stamp of his innovative leadership.
Mr Sampson is also one of four Headmasters who have been at Marlborough College in the UK (the others being Hone, Hewan and Bishop), while the first Chairman of the Cranbrook School Council, the then Mr Justice Harvey, and later Mr David O’Regan (Street Housemaster) had been students at the College. Mr Hugh Playfair (Head of the History Department) taught for a short time at Marlborough College.