Little over a decade ago, he was at school. Today, Stuart Guest is the youngest head teacher in Birmingham.
He is in charge of 420 pupils, has a staff of 50 and controls a budget of £1.5 million. And he’s seeing his school – Colebourne Primary School in Hodge Hill – through a massive £9.5 million co-location and merger with Beaufort Special School – a flagship project for the city.
Not bad for a 32-year-old.
Given nearly 60 per cent of heads are over 50 and more than half are predicted to retire within four years, Mr Guest represents the next generation of school leaders.
But – to misquote Catherine Tate’s popular TV yoof caricature Lauren – he’s not particularly bovvered by the unique status his age gives him.
“It’s quite nice, but it doesn’t really mean anything. Age on the whole is irrelevant. It is what you do that is important.”
The Birmingham-born teacher is, however, aware of the responsibility.
“Being a head is a big responsibility,” he said. “You have the welfare of students to consider and making sure their needs are met. And you have the welfare of the staff as well.
“I have always understood it is a hard job. You have leadership aspects and classroom aspects. But it is a job I thoroughly enjoy.”
Mr Guest claims a series of fortunate events, a competitive streak and clear focus on goals is what catapulted him to become one of only two per cent nationally to hold a headship under the age of 35. Even as a pupil he knew he wanted to teach and did work experience in a school as a 15-year-old.
After attending Handsworth Grammar School, he completed a four-year teacher training degree at Birmingham’s Newman College before gaining his first teaching job as a year three tutor at Sundridge Primary School in Kingstanding.
He stayed two years, gaining his first taste of leadership as head of PE.
Next he moved to Bordesley Green Primary School in Birmingham for a year and one term before joining Wyndcliffe Primary School in Small Heath as part of the senior management team.
In April 2005, after three-and-a-half years at Wyndcliffe, he moved to Colebourne as deputy and 20 months later, at the age of 31, became acting head following the departure of the previous head.
Five months on he was installed permanently in the top job.
“My plan was two years in a school. Learn, absorb, make an impact and then move on. I jumped up quicker than I planned and got my headship a couple of years early because I have been quite fortunate at the schools I have been at with people leaving enabling me to fill the gaps.”
He said he went into the headship role with his “eyes open” to the pressure it brings.
“There are a lot of pressurised jobs out there. I signed up for this. You have to be disciplined and ensure you have a balance in your life. I think that is true with any job. You have to ensure you do your job well but not sacrifice yourself.”
As well as attributing his success to having “an exceptionally supportive wife”, who was herself a teacher before starting up a business, the father-of-one said running is something else that keeps him on the right track.
This year he is doing The Great North Run half marathon and hopes next year to do the London Marathon.
“It is my way of achieving a goal. I am a competitive person and have always done sport when I was growing up.”
Mr Guest’s professional success is all the more remarkable given the fact that he lost both his parents while still in his mid-20s.
His father died in 2001 from multiple sclerosis and three years later his mother lost a fight against cancer.
“I remember when I got the job here and the service directory came from the council and the entry for this school said deputy head: Stuart Guest.
“I knew how proud my parents would be at that. They were very strong role models for me.”