February 2013

The know zone

  • Warning signs
    The case of a BNP councillor who took his claim against unfair dismissal to the European Court of Human Rights is a warning to schools and colleges, says Richard Bird. More
  • Toil and trouble
    Changes to local and national funding formulae could be a recipe for a whole cauldron of bother, says Sam Ellis. More
  • Lead vocals
    Quotes from Judy Garland, Kongzi, Ezra Pound, Felix Cohen and Thomas Fuller More
  • Home ground
    After 20 years away, Mark Stanyer returned to the school where he began his teaching career and is now principal of Ormiston Sir Stanley Matthews Academy in Stoke-on-Trent. More
  • Nourishing minds
    The Food for Life Partnership (FFLP) is revolutionising school meals by reconnecting young people with farms and inspiring them to grow food and cook. More
  • Keeping pedagogy on track
    Despite being in the midst of one of the most challenging periods in education Brian Lightman explains why he believes there are strong grounds for optimism in 2013. More
  • Adding value
    In his Autumn Statement, the Chancellor announced two changes that will hit high earners, people seeking to boost their pension provision, and public sector workers who benefit from generous employer contributions. More
  • Quantitative easing
    Do you believe changes announced to the teachers’ pay structure will be beneficial or detrimental? Here, leaders share their views. More
  • Plantastic voyage
    Nothing solves a problem quite like a carefully constructed, conscientiously costed action plan. Just make sure that everyone has the correctly coloured stationery. More
  • Leaders' Surgery
    The antidote to common leadership conundrums... More
  • Financial times...
    With changes to pensions announced in the Autumn Statement and proposals to change teachers’ pay published only days before ASCL Council met in December, it was no surprise that pay and conditions were high on the agenda. More
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After 20 years away, Mark Stanyer returned to the school where he began his teaching career and is now principal of Ormiston Sir Stanley Matthews Academy in Stoke-on-Trent.

Home Ground

You have a brand new building. How did you approach re-designing a whole school?
We had to build around the existing split-site school premises, so we’ve ended up with an L-shape. I decided I wanted to go down a more faculty-based route so we have created learning spaces within dedicated subject areas. In the initial design, we were going to have what was called a ‘vocational mall’ but that was changed.

That’s just as well; “Stop running in the vocational mall, Jenkins” doesn’t sound right.
Quite; the good thing from my perspective is that you can see all the way down the building and clock the pupils that misbehave. 

Did you have reservations about returning to your old school as principal?
When this job came up, I had been a head at a brand new £25m school for just half a term but returning here was a wonderful opportunity to come back to the city where I was born. The different dynamics of being principal among long-time friends was a consideration – so much so, in fact, that I withdrew from the first round of interviews. They didn’t appoint the first time so I don’t know if it was just meant to be; I re-applied and got the job. I’m fair and consistent with everyone. I regularly ask them if they can recite the academy vision. If they can’t, I go back half an hour later and say, “Can you remember what we’re here for, our core purpose?” Sometimes, they get a bit flustered and it can be funny.

Are you word perfect on the academy vision?
It would be a pretty poor show if I couldn’t do it… even under pressure. 

How did a football injury change the life of the future head of a school named after a famous player?
While I was at Chester College doing my degree, I was on the books at Port Vale. I was a pretty decent player. The week after my 21st birthday, during a college match against Manchester University, a tackle caused a compound fracture of my right leg. Unfortunately, there were complications and I was in plaster for 13 months. Over the years, I’ve had strange things done like having the bones of my toes broken and completely re-set on three occasions. I had planned to be a PE teacher but, obviously, the plans changed when they said I wouldn’t be able to do any more sport; the best I could expect was some light walking. It was a scary time but I became more resilient and determined in everything I did. I wanted to prove them wrong. 

The academy is named after a famous son-of-Stoke. Did you consider others, such as Robbie Williams or Frank Bough?
Sir Stanley was a great role model; he was never booked and played well into his 40s. His daughter sits on our governing body and says he would have been very proud. I think the right choice was made.

  • Interview by John Holt and Julie Nightingale


Do you know an ASCL member with an unusual story, interesting background or exceptional achievement to share? If you’d like to recommend someone else or yourself to appear in a future profile, email leader@ascl.org.uk

Mark Stanyer