Tom Beveridge loved living and teaching in London after completing Teach First’s training programme, but after swapping the capital for the West Country, he is now Head of The Dean Academy in Lydney, Gloucestershire.
When I took on the headship of a school in a small, run-down Gloucestershire town in September 2016, the school was in special measures, the student roll had fallen and there had been a high leadership turnover.
But the biggest problem it had was the recruitment and retention of teachers: Lydney is a 19-mile drive from Gloucester, 40 miles from Cardiff and 25 miles and a toll bridge fare from where I live in Bristol. Yet I could see that the school and its students had such enormous potential.
The young people here deserve a better deal.
My first year at the helm was incredibly eye opening with many ups and downs. But we have had some encouraging inspections and are about to welcome our third and fourth Teach First trainees. So how do we prise more successful teachers away from the cities and into more isolated areas? It’s easy to see why some people hesitate – after eight years of working in London schools I certainly did. But, when it came down to it, I returned to the fact that the young people here deserve a better deal. And my fears about working here turned out to be unfounded – the school is only 35 minutes from my home in Bristol.
Schools in isolated communities like this need our support. And, often, they’re not as far away as you think.