The power tools salesman turned on by the inner city

11th February 2011 at 00:00
The man who took his school from special measures to TES Outstanding Primary in just three years tells Helen Ward how he found his passion for teaching

It is difficult to pinpoint when David Deane decided teaching was for him. Certainly back in the late 1980s, when he was a power tools salesman, there was no lightbulb moment when he thought: "I should be a teacher."

Later, after meeting his wife-to-be and setting off around the world, he had a vague idea of doing something different on his return to England. Then the birth of his first child helped push him into doing a PGCE.

But it was only several years later, when he was teaching at St John Fisher and St Thomas More RC primary in Manchester, that Mr Deane realised what it meant to teach. "I can remember shocking things," he says. "At the back end of the day we'd give the children toast. A team of volunteers would come in and the children would pay 5p.

"One day this child - not a young lad, about 10 years old - was crying at his desk. I asked him what was wrong. He said he'd forgotten his money for toast. He was crying with hunger. That really shocked me. This was the 1990s and kids were coming to school really bloody hungry and it still happens now.

"It makes you decide what kind of school you want to work in. I'm not decrying leafy suburbs. I'm middle class, my kids go to a middle-class school. But the inner city is where I can make the most difference."

Mr Deane grew up in Yorkshire as the son of Irish immigrants - his dad was a scaffolder and his mum worked as a cleaner. He was one of five children, four of whom went on to university, and he sees that same drive in the parents of pupils he now teaches at St Thomas of Canterbury RC primary in Salford.

"In some inner-city areas, on some estates, education is not seen as a passport to a better life," he says. "In my school 66 per cent of pupils have English as an additional language; 22 different languages are spoken. Those immigrant parents are aspirational and their aspiration rubs off on the indigenous population."

When Mr Deane left school he took a degree in economics at Liverpool University and then became a salesman. It was during a sales trip to London that he met up with a friend who introduced him to his future wife. He moved to London for a while but the couple soon decided to work their way around the world.

On returning to England they decided to move to Manchester. Mr Deane took a PGCE at Manchester Metropolitan University and landed his first job at St John Fisher and St Thomas More - just before it went into special measures.

Dominic Mulcahy, now head of St John's RC primary in Chorlton, was appointed head of St John Fisher and St Thomas More with a remit to turn it around. He says: "The school was in the most deprived area in the UK, so there were a lot of challenges. David was recently qualified but I was certain that within two years if he applied himself he could be a deputy head."

Mr Deane stayed at the school for five years and then left to be deputy head at St Gilbert's RC primary in Salford. Six years later, in January 2007, he took on the headship of St Thomas of Canterbury. The school was at that time in special measures after just 10 of 16 Year 6 pupils reached the expected level in English - placing the school in the bottom 1 per cent in the country.

By 2008 an intense programme of assessment and support had turned the school around; by 2010 inspectors found teachers had high expectations, excellent teaching skills and superb pastoral care.

Mr Deane says: "I would say teaching is the best job I've ever done. I thought it in the early career and have thought it all the way through. Every job has its ups and downs, and in this difficult economic climate there are going to be challenges and opportunities. My job now is to position the school to take the maximum advantage of those opportunities."


Schools Awards

Entries are open for the 2011 TES Schools Awards (TESSAs), which celebrate outstanding teams in the UK state and independent sector.

The TESSAs recognise innovation in teaching, leadership and community involvement. There are three new awards this year: Best Business Team; Best Financial Team or Initiative; and Best School Website.

The entry deadline is 5pm on 11 March 2011. The shortlist will be announced in April and the winners revealed at a gala luncheon in July.

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