Into headship earlier than he was 30, Clive Lawrence has taken his particular faculty to ‘world class’ standing and an ‘excellent’ grade. How did the cheeky boy from the property get himself – and his faculty – to the place they’re?
On his twenty eighth birthday, Clive Lawrence was beginning his first ever headteacher position. It was simply 5 years since he’d certified as a instructor and ten years since he’d volunteered as a educating assistant, making him one of many youngest heads within the nation. Maybe much more terribly, he’d come from circumstances that appeared to stack the chips closely towards him: he and his youthful brother grew up on one among Derby’s most impoverished housing estates and have been two of the one youngsters from an ethnic minority background within the space. Their mum left faculty to have him aged 15 and introduced him up in a white household as a single guardian within the Eighties.
Now, aged simply 35, Lawrence has a formidable document below his belt. He’s turned St Giles particular wants main faculty, in Derby, into every thing from a educating faculty supporting different settings to an internationally recognised “world-class” establishment.
A particular wants faculty that’s main the way in which on excellence for different colleges just isn’t a dynamic you usually hear about.
With such a sombre backstory on the face of it, Lawrence might relate his private story with nice seriousness. However he doesn’t. His eyes twinkle always. There may be barely a second when he’s not chuckling or grinning, and it quickly turns into clear that one among Lawrence’s qualities is as a high storyteller. I can’t cease laughing.
“Me and my brother have been the one mixed-race youngsters in my household. Once I assume again to the terminology my nan used to make use of…” he breaks off, chuckling. “My nan would take us procuring with my cousins, and he or she’d say, ‘These are my white grandchildren, and these are my colored grandchildren.’ She didn’t imply it badly! She beloved us.”
He continues to smile as I ask the place he grew up. “Should you mentioned you have been from the Allenton and Osmaston property like we have been, that wouldn’t go down very effectively! However I beloved it, I completely beloved it. Individuals mentioned they wouldn’t stroll by means of there at evening however that will by no means have fazed me. Everybody knew everybody, everybody regarded out for one another.” He additionally remembers “some cultural friction” in his early years between his mum’s household and his dad’s, who have been from a Jamaican background. However each households beloved the boys, he says, and the friction eased off.
Lawrence shares a capability to see the magic in conditions with one other storyteller of nice significance to him: Roald Dahl. It was his main faculty instructor, Mrs Farthing, who launched him. “Bless Mrs Farthing, I beloved her. She used to learn us Roald Dahl tales on a regular basis. I bear in mind there have been quite a lot of Irish traveller youngsters in our faculty, so she learn us Danny, The Champion Of The World,” he says, referring to Dahl’s e book a few boy who lives in a caravan. “She was clearly attempting to show us about acceptance. That’s the place I developed a love of studying, and of changing into a main faculty instructor in the future.”
The truth is that if there was a BA in headship, I might have performed that
Main faculty headship was in Lawrence’s sights from that second, main him on to a three-year BA Hons in main training at Northampton College. When somebody later requested him what else he would have performed aside from educating, he didn’t have a solution. Management specifically drew him. “The truth is that if there was a BA Hons in headship, I might have performed that diploma,” he hoots. “I’ve all the time wished to be a pacesetter.” He leans in conspiratorially to the display. “My mum got here throughout a report from my PE instructor in yr 2. It mentioned, ‘Clive is admittedly enthusiastic. Nevertheless, I’ve to maintain reminding him he’s the pupil and never the instructor, as he retains attempting to inform everybody what to do’.” He grins broadly.
The selection to hunt inspiration – “I’m all the time quoting quotes, me” – and see the constructive in conditions is clearly core to Lawrence’s character, and likewise fairly evident from the partitions of his workplace. He reveals me a framed image of Charlie and the Chocolate Manufacturing facility in Quentin Blake’s sensible drawings, with the quote “Nothing is unattainable”. “I work in a particular faculty, so I take advantage of that one rather a lot.” One other one from Dahl reads: “Those that don’t consider in magic won’t ever discover it.”
However, maybe most unusually for a headteacher, Lawrence has his inspiration inked on to his very pores and skin. Matilda, Charlie, James and the Big Peach and the BFG are all intertwined in an enormous tattoo on his proper arm. I think about it’s a complete trump card with shy youngsters. “I had this dodgy tattoo there earlier than, from after I was 15,” explains Lawrence. “So I assumed I’d get one thing extra…um…skilled.” Like his tales, Lawrence has taken one thing that would seem tough and made it endlessly charming.
But Lawrence acknowledges that one among his different motivations for his work comes from seeing his brother wrestle in school and in life. His youthful sibling received in with the unsuitable crowd on the property and was ultimately completely excluded from secondary faculty. “Lecturers would additionally say issues to him like, ‘you’re not like your large brother Clive’, which compounded the difficulty,” he says. Lawrence has been the particular guardian of his youthful brother’s three-year-old daughter since beginning, with authorized parental accountability – a call taken to assist his brother out who was experiencing difficulties in life on the time, and to make sure his niece remained throughout the household. He holds an image of a smiling little lady as much as the digicam, beaming himself.
So though Lawrence might have solely been a instructor for 5 years earlier than being made head at a main particular faculty in Staffordshire, one suspects he has been watching and studying carefully for a few years. Circle of life stuff was near dwelling. From age 15 he’d volunteered with a vacation camp for deprived youngsters in Derby, and within the archive of black-and-white photos of the camp he discovered an image of his mum, who’d gone there herself as a baby.
Such experiences and inspiration make Lawrence’s drive for excellence seemingly fairly unstoppable. He credit Melsa Buxton, his first headteacher as an NQT, with emphasising the significance of being “extremely bold, pushed and aspirational” for pupils with particular academic wants.
When he took his second headship, at St Giles in 2015, he was decided the college ought to attain the highest and launched three new curriculum drivers: communication, independence and neighborhood.
When a pupil’s EHCP arrives, workers method it with these three objectives in thoughts, he explains: vastly rising a pupil’s communication skills, their capability to work independently in direction of an grownup life, and constructing a way of neighborhood through which pupils are engaged and joyful. An enormous out of doors training programme was launched to assist meet all three objectives, in order that now each classroom has its personal out of doors space. Pupils be taught to make use of saws and hammers, make fires and construct dens.
It was in 2016 that inspectors got here to test if the college nonetheless deserved its ‘good’ grade. They mentioned it did. “However we wished absolute readability on why it wasn’t excellent. It was bouncing backward and forward all day,” laughs Lawrence. Inspectors checked out extra proof and agreed to transform the inspection right into a two-day go to. That afternoon, they informed Lawrence the information – the college was ‘excellent’.
“I mentioned, ‘Can I simply nip to the john?’ And I legged down the hall into the workers room and shouted, ‘WE’VE DONE IT!’ and we have been all going mad,” cackles Lawrence. “Then I mentioned, the inspector thinks I’m in the bathroom, so I ran again and composed myself.”
Since then, the college has received SEN College of the Yr at Pearson’s Shine a Mild Awards in 2019 and achieved “world-class faculty” standing, a top quality mark that appears on the improvement of pupils’ qualities and traits, as an alternative of nationwide evaluation frameworks. In the meantime, the college delivers inclusion and SEND coaching to about 40 colleges, sharing greatest apply in mainstream settings.
I mentioned, ‘Can I simply nip to the john?’ And I legged down the hall into the workers room and shouted, ‘WE’VE DONE IT!’
“It’s nonetheless fairly distinctive for particular colleges to be seen to be main the way in which,” says Lawrence. “We have now to shout rather a lot.”
But it surely’s working. As we converse, Lawrence’s cellphone rings. He places it down after a second. “That was the DfE.” He’s going to be a part of an ‘inspirational headteachers’ collection.
Maybe lastly particular wants colleges like his, and particular wants heads like him, will get the complete recognition they deserve.