How did they get there?

6th March 1998 at 00:00
How did you get where you are?

I always wanted to be a teacher - ever since I was a boy in Belfast in the Fifties. I was good at numbers, and interested in science, and went to Queen's University to do a physics degree - although I knew I wanted to teach.

My first job was at Worcester Royal Grammar School, where for three years I taught physics and maths, as well as coaching rugby and rowing. It was a good time. I learned a lot of physics there, because you don't really understand a subject until you start to explain it.

Then I went to Warwick University for three years as a research assistant and to study for my PhD. I had thoughts about university teaching, but soon realised I was more of a schoolteacher at heart.

After that I climbed the career ladder in the comprehensive system. I was head of physics at Sheldon Heath School in Birmingham until, in 1974, I became head of science at President Kennedy Comprehensive in Coventry. From there I went to be deputy head at Caludon Castle Comprehensive, also in Coventry. The next step would have been to headship. But throughout my career I had been in the Association for Science Education. I helped run the annual meeting when it was at Warwick University in 1981, and then became a council member. So in 1989, when the general secretary of the association left, I applied for the job and got it.

Would you do anything differently second time round?

I don't think so. I've enjoyed everything I've done.

What is the most important aspect of your job?

Being a catalyst for professional development. I went to the ASE with a vision of the association as a professional organisation, sharing and developing good practice, articulating needs and ideas. In support of this ideal, I make links between science teachers, government and top industrialists and world-class scientists.

What do you enjoy about your job?

The opportunity to help teachers do their job professionally and well. We are continually bombarded by people who want help or want to offer help.

What don't you enjoy?

I haven't had a day in this job that has really got me down.

What's the most difficult thing you have to do?

Saying no to someone because we can't find the funding.

Who or what inspired you or influenced your approach?

My first head of science, Alan Gibbs, and the late Ted Wenham, a lecturer at Worcester College and one of the pioneers of the Nuffield Science Project. A lot of what he said still rattles round in my head.

What keeps you sane?

I have a dinghy on a local lake, and aspirations towards more ambitious sailing. And home life of course - my wife, Julie, is so supportive.

Interviewed by Gerald Haigh

Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar,, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today