The Interview - 'I've had great role models'
How did you get into teaching?
I trained as a nursery nurse in 1989. After that, I worked for a year in a school. I've always enjoyed working with children, and I found it very rewarding. The head there was really encouraging - he supported me and said I should hold on to train to be a teacher. He saw my potential. I hadn't got my maths GCSE, and he tutored me after school so I could get it and go on to teach.
How did you rise to be headteacher so quickly?
I'm officially deputy head at Fieldhead Carr while the head there is going through phased retirement. He still works there for two days a week, so this year I've been the acting headteacher with his support. I also completed my National Professional Qualification for Headship (NPQH) in December. A lot of people tend to stay as a deputy for five or six years, but I've had a lot of experience and I've been lucky to have had some effective role models to follow.
Are you nervous?
I'd be silly to say I wasn't nervous. But I'm excited about it. I'm not nervous in terms of "I don't know what to do". I'm really looking forward to partnership work, and I do have a lot of friends who are outstanding headteachers, and who are only a phone call away if I need any support. We're currently preparing for Ofsted: we've got our three-year inspection next year. There's a lot I need to put in place for that.
What made you want to become a head?
I got to the stage where I thought that I didn't just want to concentrate on the classroom. I've led whole-school initiatives, and now I want these to make an impact. To do that, I need to become a head. I've worked with some outstanding headteachers, such as Linda Bowles at Carr Manor Primary. Carr Manor was always a couple of years ahead of other schools. Linda really showed me how to have an impact outside the classroom.
How can you do that?
It's providing the children with experiences outside school that they can bring back in with them. In June they're going to be growing their own vegetables and selling them to the parents after school. I'm also looking at how I can involve parents and local businesses and the community in daily school life. This year, we've worked with Starbucks, which runs half-termly coffee mornings at the school. That has been very successful in targeting parents who don't necessarily come in because they've had negative attitudes to their own school. Now they come in for coffee mornings, then go into the classroom and work with the children.
What makes a good teacher?
Teaching is a vocation. I've got some outstanding teachers, and it's a part of them - like it is with me. It's giving the extra bit in terms of after-school clubs and being available for parents. It's thinking creatively, delivering lessons that are meaningful to the children and that are exciting. Children want to be switched on. They want to be inspired, they want to be stimulated, and we want a curriculum that does that. We're looking for staff who are prepared to take a risk on things and challenge themselves.
How will you develop that curriculum?
I want a curriculum that is not compartmentalised, where geography and science are taught through literacy. I think what's happened in the past is that we've focused too much on literacy and numeracy and science and ICT as the core subjects, and subjects such as art and music have been pushed aside. Part of my philosophy as a teacher is that you want to switch children on to learn, you want children to feel safe and enjoy school and want to come. I feel that if children enjoy learning, it doesn't matter what curriculum you give them: they will succeed if they enjoy it.
How do your schooldays compare to your pupils'?
I loved primary school. I went to a fantastic school, and I wanted to learn from an early age. But I would say education now is better. Compared with when I was at school, it's a lot more rigorous - there's a relentless focus on standards in terms of achievement and attainment. If I had targets to support me with my learning and my parents knew them, then it would focus me.
What advice would you give someone who was thinking of becoming a head?
The NPQH is now mandatory, but don't see it as a barrier. Embrace it - I learnt so much from it. And never lose focus on why we do this job - we do this for children, and we do it to provide them with the best quality education possible. When you become a head, you can get bogged down with the paperwork, but you must remember we're doing this for the kids.
If you were Schools Secretary for the day, what would you do?
I would go into schools and actually understand what school is all about.
What's the worst excuse you've ever heard?
A parent brought their child to school an hour late. She said the clocks had gone forward and she didn't know how to change hers.
2007-2009: Deputy head and acting head, Fieldhead Carr Primary School, Leeds
2006-2007: Acting deputy head, Cobden Primary School, Leeds
2000-2006: Teacher and foundation stage co-ordinator, Carr Manor Primary, Leeds
1996-2000: Teacher, Sharp Lane Primary School, Leeds.