Benedick Ashmore-ShortWinner, Headteacher of the Year in a Primary School, 2014
“Winning the award literally transformed my life and boosted the recognition of the teaching profession”
The Award for Headteacher of the Year in a Primary School 2014
now Chief Executive of The Park Academies Trust
I won the award after just two years as headteacher in a primary school which I’d successfully moved from special measures to good for the first time in its 36-year history. But my teaching and leadership career up to that point had been in the secondary sector transforming schools in challenging areas.
Winning the award literally transformed my life and boosted the recognition of the teaching profession. It gave me a voice, more credibility and a platform on which to talk about my ideas. I am passionate about cross phase education – we compartmentalise ourselves too much.
Since then I have been a Director of Education and CEO for a brand new MAT working with some of the most challenging schools in the country. I am now currently a CEO for another Trust and since the awards have taken 23 schools through Ofsted inspections all successfully with a large number from Special Measures to Good.
THE JOB/CHANGES AND CHALLENGES
Although both of my parents were teachers, as a child I always wanted to be a children’s TV presenter. I then worked in finance for a year but didn’t enjoy that so trained to become a teacher. I have always worked in deprived areas and currently work in Doncaster, South Yorkshire
I have always challenged pre-conceptions and I would like to get rid of separate primary and secondary schools altogether and have one school so that children experience seamless transition. Moving schools is a very stressful time for our children.
Pastoral care is vital but for staff as well as pupils. The wellness and wellbeing of my staff is essential. But the most important thing for children is to have teachers with energy, enthusiasm, passion and a smile. And with the right support, our staff can and do become ‘the champions of every child’
Following the changes we have introduced at our academies we are now inundated with job applications and once our staff arrive, they stay. Last year we gave above average pay increases of 2% by finding money within school. And I think teachers working in areas like Doncaster, one of the most deprived parts of the country, should be paid more. We need the best teachers and leaders in front of the children who need it the most.
I’m incredibly proud of the work we do here because I think we do things differently. We took on schools no-one else wanted, we did the right thing. The moral thing is to work with the schools that have often had a 30-40 year legacy of underachievement, where communities have a poverty of aspiration and people feel unloved. This is where we can make the biggest difference as educators, by transforming the school, allowing a community to believe again and providing a great school for the next 50 years that will be a catalyst for building social capital.
I would advise newly qualified teachers to challenge the norm, challenge your leadership if what they are doing is not child-centred. And create your own schedule of work so that you are not working before 8am or after 7pm and not more than 2 hours on a weekend. You need to have time for your own family as without that you will not have energy, enthusiasm and passion for the job.
And I wish someone had advised me that the education system as a whole does not work for a certain percentage of the population and that if we are to change this then we must be radical innovators.
THE TEACHING PROFESSION
The profession has gone through many changes over the years, it’s been better, it’s been worse, but I think we are now at a very dangerous time in education. Some school leaders are living under a culture of fear. It’s true, teaching is a vocation, but the reality is that huge numbers of teachers are leaving the profession. If I were in government I would look at pay scales and would pay higher wages to staff in deprived areas because at the moment education is not working for the most needy.
I have stayed because I believe that as a profession we can change the world. By taking control of the system we can prove that school transformation and wholesale sector improvement can be achieved and in the correct way. Making society fairer and ensuring every single child regardless of situation can believe in their value to society.