United Learning South Manchester Cluster
In 1991, I decided to leave my role in the Midlands as a Senior Pastoral Leader to work as a Deputy Head at St Bonaventure’s, an 11-18 all boys school, in the East End of London, with responsibility for what was then the new local management of schools and the new national curriculum. It was an exciting time not least because my head teacher was Sir Michael Wilshaw, the recently retired Chief Inspector of Schools. This was a steep learning curve on the importance of holding people accountable and putting students at the heart of what you do.
At the age of 37 I was appointed to my first Headship in Bradford at St Joseph, an 11-18 all girls school – quite a difference. I was the first male head in 100 years – quite daunting. At the time the school was under threat of closure. I was delighted that 4 years later the school had received a great Ofsted and that it was full to capacity and one of the top schools in Bradford.
In 1998, I was then appointed to an 11-16 co-educational school, St Monica’s. Fourteen years later this school received its fourth outstanding Ofsted just as I left. It had been held up as a beacon of outstanding practice and in the top 5% of schools in the country over the previous 10 years.
At my time at St Monica’s I also became Executive Principal of a school called St Damian’s who in 2011 were put into special measures. We came out of special measures in 2012 and recently the school has just been graded outstanding by Ofsted. At this time I also became a National Leader of Education.
In 2012 I joined Stockport Academy as Principal and I am proud to say I was Jon Coles’ first appointment. Stockport Academy was the greatest challenge in my career. It was a school that really should have been in special measures, and was only admitting half the numbers in Year 7. Its reputation in the community was so poor, particularly around the issue of behaviour and attainment.
What attracted me to Stockport Academy and the role of Principal was that the children in that community needed to have a better education. When I joined Stockport Academy the school was a failing school: it was failing the students in its care and failing the parents who had put their trust in the academy to educate their children. The academy had serious weaknesses, poor attendance and a poor reputation in the local community.
It has now become the academy of choice for local parents and is well oversubscribed. Stockport Academy was named the most improved school in Stockport in 2015 by the DfE; attainment and progress has gone up significantly and improved year on year. The academy has gone from being the lowest attaining school in Stockport to being in the top three. We are so proud of the vast and sustainable improvements that we have achieved. I am most proud of the tangible culture and ethos of the school. The academy is a winner of many National Awards including Anti-Bullying, Democracy, GOLD IAG, Red Card Against Racism and the academy was the first school in the country to achieve the GOLD National Young Carers Award. In 2016 the academy was shortlisted for the prestigious National TES Award. I was also proud to be named the Greater Manchester Headteacher of the Year.
What I am also very proud of is that I was greatly assisted in this task by Mrs Janine McCann who is the present Principal. I believe that all schools grow their own leaders and long term sustainability for communities is built on this concept. I have worked to embed systems and a culture that lasts well into the future and continue to support generations of families in accessing opportunities and believing that they can!
In my present role as Executive Principal even in a short space of time, I have been excited and inspired by my three academies; Stockport, Manchester and William Hulme’s Grammar School with their desire to work together to develop their pedagogy and share their experiences, but most of all to be developed in that common purpose of making every child’s life better.
What drives you on after 25 years of headship, is to try and create a culture of aspiration and self belief. To have a management style that is caring and thoughtful and considers all individuals yet must be uncompromising with regards to standards. As I always say “have a moral purpose, love your job and always be nice to the person who writes your reference”.