Education: Keeping ahead of the times in Leeds

Will Carr, head of Ralph Thoresby School, Leeds. PIC: Steve Riding
Will Carr, head of Ralph Thoresby School, Leeds. PIC: Steve Riding
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Will Carr became headteacher at Ralph Thoresby School in September and he plans on making a good Leeds school even better.

He speaks to Neil Hudson about what it’s like to manage more than 1,000 pupils, his (recent) attachment to his iPad, meeting Alan Bennett and why the Yorkshire Dales beats Italy and Turkey hands down any day of the week.

“These are exciting times at Ralph Thoresby School. The redevelopment of the immediate locality will give the school a real ‘campus’ feel. With a community theatre and library already on site, this relatively new school building offers outstanding facilities. Holt Park Active, a state-of-the-art sport and well-being complex is set to open in 2013 and discussions are well under way about how the school and the leisure centre can work in partnership.

“It is a privilege to do this job and although it’s a huge responsibility I’ve thoroughly enjoyed every day. I’ve inherited a wonderful school. We have talented students and a dedicated, skilled staff. The minute I walked into the school I knew it was the right place for me. I felt at home and knew I could make a difference. The pace of change has been rapid as I’ve sought to put effective systems in place but I can see the students really responding.

What really makes me proud is seeing the hard work of teachers and the positive reactions of students. I firmly believe that all students can achieve given appropriate opportunities and the right motivation - in my previous school my role was raising achievement and standards and I was able to put systems in place which dramatically improved exam results. Having said that, as a school leader you are only one person and you don’t improve a school on your own.

“I couldn’t live without newspapers and TV. Recently, I’ve become very attached to my ipad, much to the irritation of those close to me.

My first serious job was as a history teacher in a Harrogate school but I’ve had a string of other jobs when I was going through university. Working in bars and warehouses taught me quite a bit about life.

I still think teaching is the best job in the world – you get an incredible amount of responsibility from day one and you can really make a difference to young peoples’ lives. I always encourage young people to pursue a career in teaching and not be put off by some of the negative press.

“I had a very happy childhood, growing up in East Yorkshire and it’s given me a stability that’s definitely helped me in my career.

I know from talking to students, friends and colleagues that school is such an important stabilising influence for many young people and that’s why a good school will always have excellent pastoral care as well as excellent academic opportunities and achievement. The two go hand in hand.

Working as a headteacher can be all-consuming but it’s important to relax. I like to spend time with my own children (both attend their local state primary school in Leeds and love it). I enjoy sport and the arts in equal measure and I’m as happy at the West Yorkshire Playhouse as I am on the terraces at the KC Stadium watching my team, Hull City (sorry Leeds fans). I also enjoy getting out into the local countryside but I don’t do it often enough.

“My philosophy on life is to not to get too carried away when things are going well or too downhearted when things aren’t working out. Professionally I believe firmly in equality of opportunity and high aspiration. Background should never be a barrier to achievement. Everyone can achieve their full potential if they aim high.

“I was fortunate enough to meet one of my heroes last year when I invited Alan Bennett to his old school. I am delighted to say that he didn’t disappoint and was a genuinely warm, humble and very impressive personality. I would love to meet Nelson Mandela but I think I would be a bit overawed.”

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