MEET THE HEAD- St Margaret’s CE Academy

This issue we spoke to Stephen Brierley of St Margaret’s CE Academy..

How long have you been Head of St Margaret’s Academy?
Since September 2013. Previously I’d worked in 6 other schools around the North of England, – I was Headteacher at Archbishop Blanch School from 2003 to 2007. I can honestly say that of all the areas where I’ve taught, Liverpool is the most exciting: the Heads of the secondary schools work very collaboratively, swapping ideas and offering each other advice. Their companionship makes a rewarding job doubly good!

How would you describe the ethos of the school? What makes it special?
First and foremost, St Margaret’s is a Church of England school. Christian values run right through everything we do – they’re ‘hard-wired’ into our very identity. It’s a school with a long tradition of academic excellence, but even more importantly with high-quality pastoral care as well – young people are far more than brains and characters, they are souls too! Just as Liverpool Heads’ collaboration makes Liverpool a great place to be a Head, so St Margaret’s staff collaboration makes St Margaret’s a great place to work too – the staff here work together (and socialise together!) very effectively.

What do you enjoy most about your job?
Working with the young people. Unusually for a Headteacher nowadays, I still teach – last year I had a Year 9 Maths group for three hours a week. They were a great group of young people, and many of them made real progress over the year – even those who sometimes convinced themselves they couldn’t do Maths!

How do you ensure the students reach their full potential?
We always try our best to ensure every young person reaches their potential – and the secret to that, I think, is to work hard with each youngster to find their talents so they can be nurtured. For some, it’s obvious that they have a talent for Maths, say, or for sport or music; but for others, the talent maybe less obvious – maybe they’re great at empathy, or at being a friend to those in need, or at encouraging others. Those talents need to be identified and nurtured just as much as the more obvious ones! – and that’s what we strive to do.

What qualities do you find the students at St Margaret’s Academy leave with?
That’s a really good question, because school is about so much more than GCSE or ‘A’-levels. I know that many young people leave our school having made life-long friends – that’s why we chose ‘friendship’ as one of the Christian values we cherish most. I’d like to think that ‘endurance’ is something else our young people have learnt (again, that’s another Christian value we particularly celebrate) – although to be honest, any young person who’s successfully navigated the new GCSEs and ‘A’-levels that have been introduced recently will have had to show a fair amount of that!

What did you enjoy most about school?
I used to enjoy all the extra-curricular activities that my school offered – particularly the singing, for example. As far as school subjects go, I fondly remember one teacher who not only taught me Maths, but also managed to teach me to love Maths – to the extent that I still enjoy thinking up puzzles etc to try out on those I teach (eg “What’s the 21st letter of the alphabet, counting from the back?” – which is a neat question because most people say “E”, which is wrong!). That’s what I want St Margaret’s youngsters to acquire too – a real love of learning – so that learning isn’t something that stops once they’ve taken their last exam in a subject!

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