Interview: Sir Kevin Satchwell

2nd September 2011 at 01:00
The headteacher who pretends to be a builder on holiday

What is the best piece of advice you have been given?

"Only a fool makes the same mistake twice."

Who has been your biggest influence?

My wife. She has always worked in the toughest schools, yet finds the time to build me up when I feel down, calm me when I am angry and offer good advice. She has been doing it for 40 years. She deserves a long-service medal.

What was your worst moment in teaching?

Any time that you lose a child. I still send Christmas cards to the parents of the children who died 30 years ago.

Which pupil are you most proud of?

I have two who I couldn't choose between. The first would be Ricky Balshaw, a student who competed in the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games and won a silver medal for horse riding. He is the most fantastic, positive person I have met. The second would be Kim Hughes, who is one of the youngest living recipients of the George Cross. To receive that award at such a young age is unique.

What is your career high so far?

Having the opportunity to run a school in an era when there was scope for breaking the mould.

What would you be if you hadn't become a teacher?

My aspiration was always to be a professional footballer. I always run a football team here at the school and somebody reminded me the other day that I have won more silverware in the past 20 years than Sir Alex Ferguson - make of that what you will.

Where did you last go on holiday - and why?

Tenerife: when my eldest son was a baby, he suffered from a breathing complaint and the consultant recommended it for the warmer climate. I dreaded the prospect of it, but we had such a great time that I have been back every year since. When we go, I always pretend to be a builder, so I can have conversations that are about nothing to do with school. All my family are sworn to secrecy.

What is the worst excuse you have ever heard?

It was in Liverpool: one of the students in my tutor group had been absent for a couple of days. On his return, he came in with a note explaining that he had been taking his tortoise to the vet. I probed him as to why this had taken such a long time and his amazing retort was: "Sir, everybody knows that a tortoise doesn't walk very fast."

Sir Kevin Satchwell worked in secondary schools around Liverpool and Wolverhampton before being appointed head of Thomas Telford School in 1991. He was knighted in 2001 for his services to education.

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