Richard Anderton is starting his NQT+1 year at Mere Green Primary School. He will be teaching year 3, which welcomes 10 extra pupils this month, as part of the progressive academy’s development.
“It’s an exciting time for the school. We’re moving forward – not just as a school, but as a community,” Richard says, with a confidence and zeal that makes him stand out (that and his 6ft 5 frame).
Richard joined Mere Green a year ago after completing two placements at the school, and another at fellow ATLP primary, Slade. During that time he has been appointed Humanities lead at his school (not to mention heading up a raft of other initiatives, including being appointed Mere Green’s ATLP staff wellbeing representative).
Richard says: “
If I look at everything that happened in my trainee year, it’s incredible. There is so much collaboration going on here – this is a completely different school to anywhere else – we’re constantly improving, changing – even the marking is progressive.”
A local to Sutton Coldfield, the former Fairfax School student invited the town’s MP Andrew Mitchell to speak to Mere Green pupils about politics.
He says: “I want children to be engaged in politics as early as possible, to ignite that spark and understanding of the world around them.”
Richard’s pupils did not disappoint. He was particularly impressed with the year 2 child’s starter for 10: “So what are we going to do about Brexit?”
Richard wants to build on the pupils’ (and colleagues’) understanding of Parliament and democracy by becoming a teacher ambassador for Parliament’s education service. In January, he will visit Parliament to take part in a week-long continuous professional development programme called the Teachers Institute.
Embedding Life Skills
Encouraging children to become involved in the world around them is very much the Mere Green way. Richard is organising a multi-cultural event, with colleague Matt Coulthard, to celebrate diversity. There’s a mixture of arts and crafts and history, from Ancient Egypt to modern Britain.
We pay so much attention in being able to relate to people and preparing children for the real world, to the point that we are embedding those life skills into the curriculum.”
When he reached voting age, Richard wanted to change the world. Unsurprisingly, this led to a degree in politics and sociology from Manchester University.
After graduating, he took up a placement as a teaching assistant at a challenging secondary school in Coventry, despite never intending to follow in the footsteps of his mother, a special educational needs co-ordinator (SENCO) of 23 years.
It was through education that Richard realised he could change the world for young people. He says:
Children have a passion and love of learning, an eagerness to learn. Seeing the difference you can make – I knew it was something I wanted to get into and that becoming a teacher would enable me to do that on a larger scale. Teaching is a vehicle by which he can improve lives and help others.”
A World-Class Teaching School
Inspired by his stint as a TA, Richard took the Schools Direct route into teaching alongside Arthur Terry National Teaching School (ATNTS) acclaimed School Centred Initial Teacher Training (SCITT) programme, which combines classroom placements and study.
Richard says: “As a local, I was aware of the teachers at Arthur Terry. It is renowned for having a good reputation. I liked the more school-based route with practitioners who are still in the job. The support was tremendous.”
When Richard was offered a permanent teaching position at Mere Green, he jumped at the opportunity.
He says: “I always said to Anna Balson (former Mere Green headteacher and current ATLP executive headteacher, primary) you can tell if you want to work in a school as soon as you start there. I saw Mere Green as somewhere I could teach and it’ been fantastic.
“I love the ethos, which is very much around family and community. It isn’t just about Maths and English – it’s about the whole child, which is great.
Of course education is important, but what I like about Mere Green is it’s not all just about the teaching and learning – it’s the other parts, the difference you make not just with education, but with relationships; that’s what makes an impactful teacher. If you don’t have a good relationship with the children they won’t come to you.”
“It’s a family feel school. We support and trust each other and are a close team. The strong leadership is evident in this school. Anna and Kristal are fantastic. They support us day in day out, and that is repaid.”
The feeling is mutual. Anna Balson says that Richard: “completely embodies the school’s ethos and spirit of hearts and minds.”
She adds: “He loves our children and is an inspirational leader – always looking for the next best thing to inspire and motivate.”
Richard is already invested in the ATLP mind set. He sees the partnership as a gateway to opportunity and has been supported by CEO Richard Gill, who he calls “Rich” (just to avoid any confusion).
The NQT1 adds: “I would like to be a headteacher because you can make a difference on a broader scale, but I’m not in this for the career progression. It’s the opportunities I have – teaching a broad range of subjects, working with other teachers across the ATLP and developing my strategic skills. There’s so much scope to learn and improve.”