Let’s meet Grant Strudley, Head Teacher, Crown Wood Primary School
Having left school at eighteen with two Es and an N my options were limited, but my drive wasn’t. I started work in the library and research unit of the Central Office of Information in London, where I learned to use the department’s first ever computer. It was 1987 after all. With my new research and computer skills I sought new challenges that broadened my horizons, but like most people, I too was a casualty of the early-nineties recession. Rather than finding a new job straight away, I decided to go travelling in North America. During my travels I saw an advert for summer camp fencing instructors/coaches, and having been a qualified foil and sabre coach I applied. Here is where my journey into teaching began.
The time I spent at the camp and travelling had profoundly changed me. Life soon returned to normal, I was back in the UK, and working. Then came the call that changed everything. I was asked to coach at the camp again the following summer. Watching the children and young people develop new skills, gain confidence, overcome challenges, and talk of their aspirations wasn’t just satisfying, it was inspirational. And it was during the summer of 1997 that it finally hit me. Having gained a few NVQs and other qualifications along the way I was accepted onto a degree course. While I trained, I returned to Michigan each Summer. Soon I was promoted to Program Director and after graduation offered a fantastic opportunity: join the camp full-time as Assistant Director.
I learnt a huge amount from working at camp – both as a teacher and a leader – and it has absolutely shaped me. After two years I knew it was time to go back to the UK and do what I’d trained to do, teach. I started my NQT year as maternity cover. The head teacher interviewed me over the phone but mixed up the time difference. It still amuses that I got my first teaching job lying in bed, wearing pyjamas!
As the years went by, I was always encouraged to lead and lucky enough to be surrounded by inspirational leaders. Firstly, I was part of the Fast Track programme, then Leadership Pathways, and I completed a Masters.
My first Headship was at a school in special measures. It was a baptism of fire, but one I wouldn’t change at all. The day Ofsted took it out of special measures coincided with the school’s 150th anniversary celebrations. My tenure was marked by amazing highs and some personal lows: losing my father the night before my first day and the sudden passing of a colleague. Then there were other difficult decisions: closing the financially unviable nursery and academizing. I can’t explain my pride when the school was rated Good.
I’m now onto my second Headship and relishing the joys and challenges of a much larger school.
Why did you choose to join NAHT?
I joined the NAHT as a Deputy Head because I wanted a union which would support and develop me as a leader. Colleagues highly recommended it and I’ve never been disappointed. NAHT’s always provided excellent professional advice and I highly rate their courses.
What attracts you to NAHT courses/events?
I’ve been to both central NAHT training and booked tailored training for my school and the Primary Headteachers’ Association in Bracknell. The topics are always relevant to leaders and linked to current issues, content is up to date, and the trainers are highly knowledgeable. For me, the biggest attraction is the practicality of the courses: I leave them with useful tools/resources to use back in school with my team.
How do NAHT courses/events support your career?
It’s important to note that I don’t just use NAHT courses for me, I also use them to support specific areas I’ve wanted to develop in my team. Courses on budgeting and financial management were particularly valuable when I was a new Head. My SBM did the same course and this helped us work together to keep the budget balanced. I’ve booked my Deputies and/or SLT on training specific to them. This is not only great development for them, but it also means we can share best practice.
Is there anything else NAHT can do to make its courses/events appealing to the wider schools leadership teams? What do you want to see more/less of?
Cost and time are always a barrier when it comes to bringing other senior leaders to courses, particularly if they teach. The tailored training has always been useful as this is much more cost effective and is usually local. However, trainer availability can sometimes be a problem with this, so maybe more trainers?
Who’s your dream key note speaker?
That is a tough one. I’ve been privileged to hear several inspiring speakers over the years. It would probably be a tossup between Professor Sugata Mitra and, now impossibly, the recently departed Professor Barak Rosenshine.
How would you describe NAHT to non-members?
The union that will support and develop you as a leader. It’s there from your very first step in a leadership role and is steadfast in its support well into your retirement.
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