Inspire Award Winner 2015 - Wendy Moffat
Wendy Moffat, Head Teacher of The Crossley Heath School
What does the Inspire Award mean to you?
It’s a great honour. I have to say I was very surprised. I’m not entirely sure why I’m getting it, but I think it’s lovely that the college are recognising the value of education and supporting other professionals in their work, by saying this is somebody that we think is doing quite a good job and we’d like to acknowledge that. I just feel really honoured and privileged.
What was your favourite subject at school and if you could try out any course or job for the day what would it be and why?
My favourite subject was always English, I used to love writing and I loved reading, so English Literature was my favourite all the way through. I was lucky because I had several very inspirational teachers who knew everything there was about novels and poetry and they put it across with such enthusiasm. I just loved them, I loved the subject and that’s what made me want to carry on and study English at university.
This is quite a hard one, I’m not particularly sporty, so I don’t have any dreams of being an Olympic athlete for a day. I think I would quite like to be Prime Minister for a day. I would want to do an awful lot in terms of education and my first job, if I was in that seat for just one day would be to do something about the funding and priorities. I feel very strongly about the fact that education is being squeezed so hard in terms of funding. We’re feeling it in our Sixth Form and throughout the whole school. I have such strong feelings about university tuition fees, my first job as Prime Minister would be to abolish them and to declare an amnesty for all young people who have the fees hanging over them. I don’t agree with it, I think its wrong, the money can be found from elsewhere, that’s my view. I think that education in this country should be free for all who need it. I think being a student at university now is so different from when I went, because even though we never seemed to have much money at least we weren’t building up debts, we lived and it was actually good fun being a student. It’s something I feel very strongly about and I take a keen interest in politics.
Can you briefly tell me; how did you get to where you are now in your career?
I attended Brighouse Girls Grammar School, which was the right thing for me to do. It was fantastic being in that environment. I was never a swotty type but I pick things up quickly, so I found school quite smooth going. Then I decided I wanted to do a degree and the only subject I wanted to studywas English, so I went off to Hull University. Then I went to do a couple of weeks work experience working in a school, not even thinking about teaching as a career and really enjoyed it. So then I decided to do a PGCE, so that was the start of my teaching career really and I haven’t looked back.
My first job when I graduated was in Derby and it was at a very very tough inner city school, so you had to shape up or get out, but it was a good apprenticeship, that’s how I think of it anyway. I’ve had various other jobs in different types of school, I’ve worked in every type of school pretty much. I’ve worked in Comprehensive Schools and Secondary Modern when they existed. I worked at Rastrick High School for several years, where I was very very happy and then I saw a job at Crossley Heath, applied for it and I’ve stayed here ever since. I came here as Assistant Head, then I was promoted to Deputy Head and then 3 or 4 years ago I got the Headship.
Best moment in your career to date?
This is a hard one. I suppose becoming the head of this school is one of the proudest moments, something I do feel is an achievement, but it’s not about the big moments its actually the joy of being in education. The thank you’s that you get from students that you’ve helped, parents emailing or picking up the phone to say you’ve really made a difference. There’s a lot of day to day satisfaction. The proudest moment was becoming the Head because then you can lead the school in the way that you want, with the support of the governors and the staff.
How have your qualifications helped your career?
Quite simply I couldn’t do my job without qualifications. You have to be well qualified to become a teacher.
What’s the secret to your success and what accomplishment are you most proud of?
I don’t know whether this is a secret to success really but it is something that is very much part of me and my personality and that is that I just love people and I think that there’s a danger sometimes in education, because it’s all about targets and things, that you lose sight of the person and so I think one of the attributes that I do bring to my job is that I’m very very people centred. I really enjoy the interactions that we have as human beings, whether that’s with staff or students, on a daily basis. I think that’s one thing, I think another thing is that I’m quite persistent. I won’t give up, so if there’s something that I want to do or I want the school to achieve then I’ll try to find ways to get there and I think I’m also very good at seeing talent in other people. I’m lucky because I’ve got great colleagues that I work very closely with and I think that strengthens your position really.
In education it’s making Crossley Heath School, which is a great school, even greater. We are continuing to improve and we work with very bright children, who need the highest quality of teaching. It’s not easy being the Head of a school like this and I think the other thing around the school is that I think I have been quite effective in breaking down people’s perception of a grammar school. It’s certainly true that if you go back a few years, and I’m sure some people still hold this view, that a Grammar School is not a real school. That it’s a privileged, you’re working with already privileged children and I think I have helped other people to see that Crossley Heath is not like that. We work very actively with other schools, to support them and show them what we do well.
Outside of education I am a wife and mum and my family are very very dear to me.
What’s your source of inspiration; who or what inspires you?
In terms of leaders, I have one stand out inspirational leader who I heard speak a couple of years ago and whose words I’ll never forget and that’s the Dalai Lama. Every time I see him and hear him I think he’s kind of like the essence of humanity for me. I like what he says, I like how he says it.
I once went to see him speak in Manchester and he talked about forgiveness and how when someone offends you or hurts you, you have to forgive and he put that across in a way that I try to live by. Sometimes forgiveness is hard. I just walked away from that thinking yeh actually, if you can’t forgive other people, the only person it damages is you. In terms of world stage leaders it has to be him for me.
On a more local scale, just the colleagues that I work with really.
What words of wisdom can you offer our students that are about to embark on their careers and go into the world of work?
A couple of things. The first thing is don’t give up and be persistent and if you can’t get where you want one way, try another direction. It’s amazing how often it works out and you get where you want to be. The other thing, use other people. You’re not in it alone and other people are on hand to advise, support and give you opportunities. I think the most important thing is to go into a job or area of work that you are going to love, sometimes that’s easier said than done but follow your interests. Don’t take on something where you think you’re going to be bored or there are no opportunities there. Try and pick something where opportunities will come to you. I think it’s really important in your career and working life, particularly when we work for longer now, that you have something that is going to give you new interests, refresh you and keep you energised.
What’s your ultimate goal? What’s next?
I want to carry on for the next couple of years building Crossley Heath up even more and also building on the partnerships, which are so important to me. We support Park Lane Learning Trust, which is an 11-16 comprehensive school. My colleagues have been going out and supporting teachers there and just building partnerships in so many ways. I’d like to see that through and just build and develop that. We’ve started to make some links with Calderdale College, which I think is a real step forward and I’d like to do more around that over the next couple of years. I want to maintain Crossley Heath’s reputation of being this really outstanding and popular school, but I also want to achieve recognition for the partnerships that we’ve built as well. I want every child that comes to this school to have the best experience that they can. It’s about giving them opportunities and experiences that allow them to develop as people. I want young people here to understand that they live and work in a society and that we should all be working towards the common good.
If you were stranded on a desert island what 3 items could you not live without and why?
I’m a great reader so I would want an entire library, if not I’ll take a kindle full to bursting with all the latest titles. I couldn’t live without a glass of red wine every so often, so I’d like a case of wine at least. And I would want to take my dog as well. I’ve got a dog that’s 8 years old, he’s a black Labrador. He drives me mad at times but I’d love him as my companion, he’s called Bruno.