Late attraction

27th July 2007 at 01:00
(Photograph) - Photograph: Andy Fox

Robert Trawford became head of Walsall Wood primary in the West Midlands three years ago, aged 55. It is his first headship and he had previously avoided the top job.

He is unusual. The average age of a new primary head is 42, but it is expected to drop. Official figures show retirements are about to rise sharply, causing the greatest shortage of heads between 2009 and 2011.

"I had planned my career to stay in the classroom," says Mr Trawford. "I loved working with children.

"Before this, I was assistant head in a leafy, suburban school that had outstanding results. I used to drive past here every day and I could see it needed to be grabbed. There was so much potential."

Since his arrival, the school roll has swelled from 123 to 230. He has introduced extra-curricular clubs, turned corridors into art galleries and made the curriculum more lively.

Walsall Wood was a coal-mining area until the 1950s. "You would never know now, but it is still that kind of community," says Mr Trawford. "These are my families, from the same streets as me. I once lived on a similar council estate and I now feel I have returned to my roots."

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