After 22 years at the helm of one of the West Midlands’ most successful secondary schools, David Kershaw should have been looking forward to retirement.
Nine years on, he is back at work, training head teachers who he believes could be the catalyst for change at “challenging” schools across Birmingham and the Black Country.
“When I left, I thought I had already had my career,” said Mr Kershaw, who oversaw the transformation of Coundon Court School in Coventry from a struggling comprehensive to one of the regions’ top-performing schools.
“But I was uneasy about what I call the tragedy of the English education system – the bottom 20 per cent, those youngsters who go to poor schools in challenging circumstances.”
After his retirement, Mr Kershaw was approached to return to teaching at a tough school in Bradford. He led the school out of special measures, a feat he repeated at two more schools in Leicester, and three years ago joined education charity Future Leaders as regional director for the West Midlands.
The charity aims to develop the next generation of heads for “challenging” schools in disadvantaged areas across the country by providing training and support to qualified teachers.
Working on five key principles, the scheme places teachers at schools where more than half of pupils fall into the lowest income households, and where GCSE results fall into the bottom 30 per cent nationally.
West Midland schools taking part in the programme include Golden Hillock in Sparkbrook, Holte in Lozells, St Alban’s Academy in Highgate, Park View in Alum Rock, Perry Beeches in Great Barr and Aldridge and Barr Beacon Language College, which are both in Walsall.
At the core of the programme is a belief that a child’s future should not be determined by their background, and that inspirational leadership from heads can help every pupil succeed.
It’s something which Mr Kershaw, who failed his 11 plus and left school before 15 with no qualifications, said he felt “passionate” about.
“I’ve worked with teachers who have said ‘what do you expect from those children, just look at the homes they come from’, but I say, as a long-serving educator, that every child can achieve. It’s our job to make sure they do.
On the Future Leaders programme is Russell Bond, assistant head at Perry Beeches School, which was once threatened with closure but now boasts the most improved exam results in the UK.
The 25-year-old, from Walsal,l said: “It’s about buying into the idea that working in these schools is challenging, but ultimately the most rewarding thing.”
l Visit www.future-leaders.org.uk