Determined to succeed

Meet the Headteacher Rupert Stead, North Liverpool Academy

by Natasha Young

Despite working his way up through several senior leadership positions before taking the helm at North Liverpool Academy, principal Rupert Stead insists securing the top job hasn’t always been his ultimate career goal. Instead, his focus has simply been on “finding a way to make a difference”.

It’s almost 12 months since Rupert Stead progressed from being vice principal at North Liverpool Academy to leading the school. Whilst he describes it as a “career defining” step up though, he insists his real priority throughout his time working in education has been about ensuring that pupils leave school with bright futures ahead of them.

“I’m delighted to be the principal and I am very proud but it isn’t something that’s driven me through my teaching career,” says Rupert, who initially trained as a maths teacher in Durham before working at schools in North Yorkshire and then Knowsley, Wirral and Liverpool. “I suppose my teaching career in education has really been focused on finding a way to make a difference.

“Initially that was in the classroom, and I suppose that’s driven my passion and determination to provide the best opportunities for all children and it’s just a developing role.”

When Rupert first arrived at North Liverpool Academy as vice-principal five years ago he was no stranger to senior leadership, having held the position of deputy headteacher in Wirral. However, his familiarity and the time he had already spent “setting and resetting the vision and drive” of the academy had made his latest transition to the top somewhat smoother.

“You have the advantage in that you understand the context and the nature of the environment in the school and you’ve worked with the children and the parents, but the step up is a different role with different expectations on it so it provides a new set of challenges that are exciting to meet,” says Rupert.

Among those challenges lies not only the focus on securing an “outstanding” school by working alongside fellow leaders of outstanding schools across the North Liverpool area, but also the ambition to equip all children with the skills they need to become successful entrepreneurs once they have left.

The school is a specialist Enterprise Academy – an element which, according to its website, means there is a “distinct emphasis on enterprise and an enterprising approach across the curriculum”.

In order to implement this way of thinking on such a widespread basis, there are six personal traits for students to build on at the heart of the school, including creativity, teamwork, risk taking, problem solving, determination and reflection.

“We know that actually achieving the very best qualifications is key to opening doors for all of our students but once the doors open, they’ve got to have those personal traits, skills and behaviours that will allow them to be successful,” says Rupert. “To be successful in anything, whether it’s doing your homework, taking on a new job or building a car from scratch, you need to be determined. You need to understand that sheer hard graft is going to help you secure your success.

“That’s one of the things that we embody in all of the work that we do.”

As far as determination goes, it’s an area where Rupert particularly leads by example, and although he is keen to point out that he is just one of a 270-strong team of staff and governors striving to make North Liverpool Academy a success, he hasn’t let his first year of heading it up pass by without making his mark on the school.

As well as attracting awards recognition including a nomination for the SEN Provision Award at last November’s Educate Awards 2014, Rupert has also set about strengthening the academy’s cultural and creative provisions.

“One of the things I’ve reaffirmed as principal is that the academy will continue to be a culturally rich environment in terms of creativity and our ability to develop children’s creative aspects,” he says. “So we’re developing our orchestra and we’re developing our performance and our music. Throughout the academy that is also something that is key.”

In turn, such success and activity is helping to raise the academy’s profile in the wider community, as the school is taking the opportunity to spread the word of its events and achievements online via social media outlets including Facebook and Twitter.

“We look for all ways to share the successes of the academy but also to share what’s actually going on,” explains Rupert. “What is absolutely important for a community and the people around us is to develop the understanding of what modern schools look like so people feel confident that they understand everything that’s going on.

“We’re a very dynamic and interesting institution and there are magnificent things going on every day, every week and I think it’s important that the wider community of North Liverpool but also Liverpool, nationally and internationally can see the work that’s going on.

“It’s something that all schools are doing and celebrating but I think it is a key part of engaging with the community and a key part of driving forward the key messages that education makes a difference.”

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