Bringing the magic back – Interview with Andy Rannard
De La Salle School in Eccleston, St Helens, has a proud Lasallian heritage, and is bound together with strong traditions and values. At the helm is Andy Rannard, who has been in post since 2017.
Having graduated from the University of Liverpool with a degree in history, Andy worked in a bank for a brief spell before realising this career pathway was not for him. He later went to Liverpool Hope University to complete his PGCE.
However, at school, a teacher taking on a careers advisory role discouraged Andy to go into teaching.
He reflects: “I sat with them and said look, I want to be a teacher and they said no you don’t! They claimed that I only wanted to be a teacher because I had been in education all my life, and that I should do something else.
Hence why I went into banking for three years.”
This conversation clearly stuck with Andy and he is passionate about children receiving the very best careers education from people who have been expertly trained in this field.
His first teaching role was at St Thomas Beckett Catholic High School where he taught a range of different subjects.
“I was a history teacher but couldn’t get a history teaching job and so I ended up teaching 10 subjects to Year 7, including Spanish, French, design technology and science.”
Andy later moved to Notre Dame Catholic College in Everton where he worked for 13 years, taking on senior leadership roles such as assistant head, deputy head and then acting head.
When the position of headteacher came up at De La Salle School in 2017, he was excited at the prospect of joining a school where he could bring some stability.
The school had gone through some turbulent times, with seven headteachers in just three years.
“It stood out to me as a school that needed healing. It needed someone to come in and have a bit of understanding and bring consistency.
“There had been all this change so there was a lot of uncertainty,” he says.
The school was in special measures and the immediate task for Andy was to bring everyone together once again.
“As a Lasallian school, there is a specific ethos that everyone buys into and that’s a great thing,” he explains.
“I didn’t have to create something new as there was something already there. I was keen to relay these
foundations so everyone felt part of it.
“On my twelfth day in the job, Ofsted came in and we were brought out of special measures which was great – although really it had nothing to do with me.
“I remember walking down the corridor with the inspector and he asked where the toilets were and I didn’t know!”
In the first year, Andy spent a lot of time identifying what was and what wasn’t working in the school.
He says: “It was about unpicking what wasn’t working and getting the quality of teaching up.
“We had to bring in more full time staff, obviously through the turmoil before I had joined, there had been loads of supply staff as people didn’t want to come and work here.”
Over the next few years, GCSE results shot up, Ofsted revisited and the school was close to a ‘Good’ judgement.
Andy adds: “Then COVID-19 hit. We really suffered and had three major outbreaks which affected staff and students. Last year’s GCSE results weren’t where they should have been as we had been filling in the gaps from the pandemic with all the staff and student absences.
“You could see people then started to doubt us which was frustrating.”
In the early summer of 2023, Ofsted returned to De La Salle and the school retained its ‘Requires Improvement’ status.
Andy spoke out about the judgement in the school’s local newspaper, calling it ‘misleading’.
He says: “It was a actually a great report, except for the judgement. A small element affected the whole thing. We know we are on the right track and 2023’s GCSE results are the best we’ve ever had, which is fantastic.”
Andy believes Ofsted judgements as a whole could be reviewed.
He explains: “No one is arguing that schools shouldn’t be inspected but schools are such large, complex organisations, and trying to distil it into one word is ridiculous.
“I like the framework they have got, and particularly the emphasis on what’s actually happening rather than just data, but I think the simple thing to do is just remove the judgments and just keep the narrative, keep the descriptions of what goes on and then people have to read and get beyond that first line and as soon as you start doing that, you get a colourful picture of a school.”
When asked about this leadership style, Andy laughs and says: “My wife thinks I’m like David Brent! But honestly I like to think I have a collegial and distributive style where I delegate and trust my staff. I’m really lucky to have a strong team under me and strong leaders in the school.
“It is very much about having a clear vision and then allocating that to people, and giving them the space to do what they need to do. For me, one of the most important things is to be kind and if we project that, then others will pick up on that.”
Speaking about what makes a great teacher, Andy believes that there is a lot to be said for a charismatic storytellers, however, as long as that person is passionate about their subject and can communicate well then they will do well.
He comments: “A key part of being a teacher is relationships. You can build and establish a relationship with a young person if they listen to you, then they’ll buy into you.
“Although for me at school, the teacher who made a difference to me wasn’t like that. Mr Smith, my history teacher at Sacred Heart in Crosby, was quite a plain man – brown suit, Oxbridge academic and he almost appeared grumpy.
“There was no razzmatazz, no tricks. He just knew his history, had passion for the subject and his wider knowledge. It wasn’t always about history, he introduced me to all sorts of different food groups, music, opera and books.
“He saw that wider development and he was passionate about education, and knowledge generally, and it was so addictive. I think the measure of that was in the class, there was me and my two mates, and all three of us became history teachers.”
Like many schools at the moment, De La Salle will soon be joining a multi academy trust.
Andy says: “It is an exciting step because it’s a collection of other trusteeship schools who have similar values and views to our own.
We are really looking forward to becoming a part of that, playing a real significant role and developing what that looks like.
For Andy, the ultimate thing is to keep giving young people a brilliant education experience.
He concludes: “Sir John Jones referred to it as the magic in education and it is to keep giving them those magical experiences.
Yes it is ensuring they have a good education, but there’s all the things around it that make it fantastic, like the trips, the visits, the leadership opportunities, careers, all of those things. Bring the magic back!”