Personally speaking - Chris Coady

12th November 2010 at 00:00
The principal reveals his pride in a pupil killed in Afghanistan

Who has been your biggest influence?

It was a chap called Kevin Hardman, who was a lecturer at Liverpool University, where I did my part-time MEd. He really helped influence where I was going in terms of my learning, and shaped my views, values and the things that were worth taking into teaching as a profession.

What was your worst moment in teaching?

In March this year, one of my former pupils was killed in Afghanistan. Liam William Maughan from the 3rd Battalion The Rifles was 18 and I was asked to pay a tribute at the military funeral. It was one of the worst and most difficult moments of my career, but it also renews your own belief in what is important.

Which pupil are you most proud of?

I have taught highly successful individuals such as Lee Hall, who wrote Billy Elliot, and Lee Clark, who played football for Newcastle and my beloved Sunderland. But it would be Liam who I would have to say I was most proud of: the Army called him and he did his duty.

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

"Don't get involved in staffroom politics, and do a good job for the students and the head." I had to bear it in mind when on my seventh day of teaching I broke my leg playing football with the pupils and the headteacher said: "What's all this nonsense?"

What is the most outrageous thing a colleague has done?

One colleague dived into a swimming pool fully clothed. A youngster was rescuing a brick from the bottom of the pool, but my colleague thought he was in trouble.

What do you do on a Friday evening?

I have rediscovered my love of five-a-side football and getting fit. All the staff here are 20 years my junior and there is no quarter asked nor given. After that, my wife and I collapse into our local hostelry with some friends.

What car do you drive?

A Mercedes C-Class diesel engine. It's a bit of a mid-life crisis car and it's my first with an automatic gearbox.

What is the worst excuse you've ever heard?

It is the culture of "can't do" and "blame" - the idea that these kids "can't do" because they come from poor backgrounds. My experience is that pupils want to be empowered.

Chris Coady is the principal of North Shore Health Academy in Stockton-on- Tees, the first NHS-sponsored academy in the UK.

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