Dr Colin Harold Robertson Niven, MA, DipEd, LèsL, FRSA

This write up is divided into two parts. A quick summary of Dr Niven's life and then my opinions and experiences of Dr Niven.

Born 1941, son of Harold Robertson Niven and the late Elizabeth Isobel Robertson Niven (née Mair).



  • Lycée Mixte, Châlons-sur-Marne (1963-64)
  • Samuel Pepys Comprehensive School (1964)
  • Sedbergh School (1964)
  • Housemaster, Fettes College (1965-73)
  • Head of Modern Languages, Sherborne School (1973-83)
  • Principal, Island School, Hong Kong (1983-87)
  • St George's English School, Rome (1988-91)
  • Visiting Fellow, Westminster College, Oxford (1991)
  • Director of International Liason, Sherborne International Study Centre (1992)
  • Chairman, Headmaster's Conference (1990-91)
  • Principal, Alleyn's School (1992-2002)


  • Voltaire's Candide, 1978
  • Thomas Mann's Tonio Kröger, 1980
  • Vailland's Un jeune homme seul (critical edition), 1983
  • Island School, The First Twenty Years, 1987
As well the above achievements Dr Niven received the CCF medal in 1983. He enjoys theatre, sport, foreign travel and cats. He particularly enjoys acting and is a member of the Dulwich Players, a local amateur dramatics society. He mostly plays small parts mostly due to his many other commitments. He is a member of the Royal Over-Seas League, the Commonwealth Trust and the English-Speaking Union. As is clear from his education and employment he is a modern language specialist. He taught French in particular.

I have had Dr Niven as my headmaster for nine years now. He will be leaving Alleyn's at Easter next year as the contract was only for ten years. He has been an excellent headmaster at Alleyn's taking over from Mr Fenner. He saw the completion of Mr Fenner's dream of founding a Junior School at Alleyn's and has also implemented a huge building plan.

Since he became Head the school has had a large extension added to the main block. The dining hall has been completely overhauled. The library has been doubled in size by a huge extension and an all weather hockey pitch has been added. The Great Hall is currently nearing completion of what began as redecoration project but turned into a dry and wet rot repair that took over 1 year.

He is a short rotund man, bald on top. He is not a natural suit wearer although he always appears smart. He likes to wear his robe when taking assemblies or present at official events.

He is not a natural orator, a skill that is often very useful for a headmaster. One of his most recent assemblies dealt with the Foot and Mouth problem. He was saying how marvellous it was that the school was still doing so well despite all the problems we had suffered that year; Foot and Mouth, the Great Hall being out of action, other building work and new A-level systems. He compared the current foot and mouth crisis to that of the myxomatosis epidemic of the 1950s. He says that despite the severity of the problem the rabbit population recovered.

I have a great admiration rabbits, they are noble and brave creatures. A great admiration for rabbits, great admiration.
Then with reference to the current foot and mouth crisis:
Things will get better, they will get much worse before they get better, then they will get worse again, then a little better, then a lot worse, then a lot better, but then worse again.
This is a typical example of his unusual style of oratory. I have only ever been taught by Dr Niven once, when he covered a French lesson of mine. He decided to teach us the main sounds that are in French but not English. He then proceeded to shout in a breathy manner: "oh", "ah" and "eee" while punching the air for emphasis. This provided much hilarity to what was then a 2nd year class (12/13).

All in all Dr Niven has been an excellent Head for Alleyn's in my opinion. He is enthusiastic about the school and although he is not a good public speaker he talks about the school very well to parents and visitors on his own.

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