Twenty years ago, trainee teacher Matt Coulthard was standing where he is today. However, in direct contravention of the Wagon Wheel rule (where items appear larger in childhood than they actually are) Mere Green Primary has definitely grown – much like former pupil, Matt.
“The hall felt a lot emptier when I was here,” he says.
“You could easily fill it with the entire school – which was just five rows of pupils back then. Today, there’s this sea of children when you look across in assembly.
“It’s more multicultural too,” he adds.
The outstanding primary school, which is part of the respected Arthur Terry Learning Partnership (ATLP) may look different – it’s undergone a £1.2 million expansion to accommodate a rising demand for places – but some things never change. Like Matt’s passion for learning and his short trousers (well, he has just been teaching PE to year 6).
Four years ago, Matt came back to the primary school where he spent his “enjoyable” formative years.
“There’s a different vibe because I’m an adult, but that passion for learning remains unchanged,” he says.
During that time Matt has been a sports coach, a super coach, led the student council, co-organised a multi-cultural event and become fully absorbed in school life.
Still he wants more. After spending the last year in a classroom support role, Matt wants to fulfil his dream of becoming a qualified primary school teacher by completing a postgraduate certificate in education (PGCE) through the ATLP’s own teaching school.
I’ve always loved learning and I want others to feel that too. You can’t beat the look on the children’s faces when they’re enjoying school.”
As part of Arthur Terry National Teaching School’s (ATNTS) highly regarded School Centred Initial Teacher Training (SCITT) programme, Matt will spend a year combining study with a teacher placement at Mere Green.
Training to become a teacher is something I’ve always wanted to do and the time feels right. I’m really looking forward to it.”
The class of 2002 pupil may have travelled full circle, but he’s been on a learning curve along the way.
Let’s rewind to 1997 when a seven-year-old Matt Coulthard was the new year two boy at Mere Green Primary School.
“I loved school. I had a great time here,” he reminisces fondly, referencing teaching assistant Mrs Mitchell. Or Linda as he calls her – now that she is his colleague.
Linda, who still works as a year two TA, remembers Matt as a being an able student, “a good boy” as she puts it.
She adds: “It was lovely to see Matt again and it’s great to be working with him.”
Matt’s secondary school years were spent at Bishop Vesey’s Grammar School. He says: “I really enjoyed being a student there and I realised that I wanted to become a teacher. I just loved learning and I wanted others to appreciate it too.”
He followed the expected route into teaching by studying for a degree in Geography at Hull University, but soon concluded that the course was not for him.
Matt left university and found a job at a local garden centre, but his calling to be a teacher was never far away.
“I still wanted to work in a school – probably more than ever,” he says.
Call it serendipity, or a government drive to improve PE provision in schools – an opportunity to become part of ‘Team Mere Green’ soon arose and a year-long sports coach apprenticeship enabled Matt to combine his love of sport and working with children.
As soon as I started here I felt that buzz. Within two years the school became outstanding. Four years later, Anna, and Kristal (executive headteacher and headteacher) are moving Mere Green forward all the time. It’s just been exponential.”
Matt’s role has also grown exponentially. After completing his apprenticeship, he progressed to the role of super coach (which essentially incorporates helping children in the classroom, assisting in PE lessons and running afterschool clubs) but his dream of becoming a teacher remained and he spent the next three years at Mere Green both working and studying full-time for a degree in English Literature.
With just one year left of study at the Open University, Matt has been working as an unqualified teacher, alongside the class teacher and will then enrol on his PGCE course for September 2018 – with encouragement from the leadership team.
Anna and Kristal gave me the confidence to go for it. They were enthusiastic and supportive – they’ve both been absolutely brilliant.”
Having direct access to the Arthur Terry Learning Partnership’s teaching school is just one of the benefits of working for a family of schools. Matt says: “Our schools work closely together and we are more connected, so there’s that network of support.”
When he completes his course in 2019, newly qualified teacher (NQT) Matt will join the hundreds of other teachers in the ATLP.
Executive headteacher Anna Balson has supported Matt all the way. She says:
Matt is an inspiration to us all. He put a stop to his initial degree, as it wasn’t right for him. He took his time to work out what was and worked at school as an apprentice.
Our philosophy of ‘growing our own’ saw Matt flourish as an aspiring teacher. It takes courage and determination to refocus and step off the ‘given path’ and we are very proud of Matt and the teacher he is becoming.”
Matt’s long-term future has yet to be determined and he would love to develop a sports coaching role across the partnership schools.
He says: “That’s the beauty of the partnership – there are opportunities, scope to grow.”
At a grass roots level, working with partner schools has many other advantages that stretch beyond the academic. Matt has been working with the ATLP student leadership on their inter school competitions and activities. He’s also been coaching Mere Green’s new hockey team on neighbouring Arthur Terry School’s astro turf pitch. “We may not have been together that long, but we are becoming more competitive,” he warns.
Building extra-curricular and enrichment opportunities for young people is important to Matt.
I want these children to experience the same positive school days as I had – filled with learning and fun.”