He’s a music legend used to performing in front of thousands of fans, but Noddy Holder faced his toughest audience yet when he had to teach a class full of teenagers in his home town of Walsall. Kat Keogh went along.
It’s not every day you find a glam rock star in a classroom.
Wearing a leather jacket and sporting a mop of famously unruly hair, Noddy Holder isn’t exactly teaching material. But the Walsall-born star revealed on a visit to his home town he could have ended up as a teacher had showbusiness not come calling.
The Slade frontman was one of 30 leading figures from the worlds of business, politics, media and entertainment who went back to school as part of a scheme to inspire pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds.
Holder, aged 64, took charge of a class of Year 8 pupils at Alumwell Business and Enterprise College for the scheme organised by education charity Teach First.
He admitted that despite decades on the stage, standing in front of 30 teenagers had been a “challenge”.
“Some of them were quiet, some a bit lippy to begin with, but they were a good group,” he said.
“Kids can be under the impression that everything will fall into their lap, so I talked to them about how I grew up in this area, that I was the son of a window cleaner and a school cleaner and had to graft year after year before I had any success.
“I wanted to instil in them they have to knuckle down even at the start of their career.”
Other guest teachers at schools across the country include Channel 4 news presenter Jon Snow and Sainsbury’s chief executive Justin King, who shared the secrets of their success at schools where at least half the children are from deprived backgrounds.
Recent research credits Teach First with improving exam results, showing schools with the charity’s teachers had seen pupils increase their grades by an average of a third of a GCSE in every subject they study.
Holder said he agreed to take part in the scheme to highlight the need for inspirational teachers.
He said: “I hate the thought that kids are always being told that if they can’t get to university, then their life is over and they are on the scrapheap.
“Some kids aren’t built for university and there are lots of other opportunities. It’s important that kids have teachers to inspire them.”
Teach First targets high-calibre, highly motivated graduates who would not normally consider a career in teaching and places them in challenging schools for at least two years.
There are 148 Teach First graduates working in schools across the West Midlands, including Alumwell Business and Enterprise College, with a further 150 primary and secondary places planned for September.
Charity founder Brett Wigdortz said the guest teachers week served to highlight the “educational disadvantage” present in schools.
He said: “By taking up the challenge of teaching a lesson in a school in challenging circumstances, these guest speakers bring much-needed attention to what is one of the most destructive and pervasive problems in the UK today, that of educational disadvantage.
“Studies show that socio-economic status still determines whether children in the UK fulfil their potential. “We think this is a deplorable situation that has to be urgently addressed.”
For Holder, who played a music teacher in TV series The Grimleys, his turn at Alumwell brought back memories of his own school days.
He said: “I was good at school, I loved it. History was my favourite. The one teacher who stood out for me was my history teacher, an ex-army bloke who didn’t stand for any messing but he got us through our exams and made the subject interesting.
“I probably would have been a teacher if I hadn’t gone into the music business as in those days, the late 50s and early 60s, nobody became a professional musician, it was the lowest of the low.
“Luckily for me, it worked out.”