Cleethorpes Academy principal: 'We believe in our students which then convinces them to believe in themselves'
Cleethorpes Academy has shown rapid
and consistent improvement since being taken under the Tollbar wing in 2010. In a series of stories about the men and women behind our schools, education reporter James Dunn spoke to principal Martin Brown about heavy metal, inspirational teachers and why rugby is better than football.
IN SEPTEMBER 2009, Ofsted placed Lindsey School And Community Arts College under special measures after inspectors said the school was failing to give its students "an acceptable standard of education".
Tollbar Edge was announced as the sponsor in January 2010 and the dramatic turnaround began. Martin Brown, who was associate principal at Tollbar Academy – one of the highest performing schools in the area – was announced as the principal in April 2010 and September's results showed a 15 per cent increase in the number of students getting five A*-C GCSE grades, including English and maths. In 2011, that rose to 53 per cent and the figure increased to 60 per cent in 2012. Mr Brown, who had worked at Tollbar since 1996, thinks that a change in approach was the key.
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"The goal was to become a school that would positively serve the community, giving them the standard of education they deserved. That was the thinking behind the name change. Students knew that we expected more from them and that was at every level, from behaviour to treatment of each other – and even uniform.
"Our intake actually have below average grades when they come to us. What we do is say, despite this, you can succeed, and we now have above average results."
Martin, 43, grew up in Coventry, one of three children. Both parents were teachers and as a teenager, he had no intention of following in their footsteps.
However, he was inspired by a primary school teacher called Mrs Tooth.
He said: "She tried to get the best out of everyone, no matter what their ability. Looking back on it, I learned a lot from her."
In his teenage years, he had two loves – cricket and heavy metal. Mad on Meat Loaf, Magnum and Status Quo, it may surprise those who know him today to discover he had long hair, like many of his idols.
"It probably looked awful – although now the hair is a little lacking," he said.
"I'm sure it would be more interesting if I could say I was really good or really bad at school. The truth is, I was just somewhere in the middle."
At 16, he was considering a career in the police or criminal justice system having enjoyed history at school. He went to a sixth form college where he studied English literature, history and politics, which is when he met his next inspirational teacher – Mr Bowen.
Mr Brown said: "He taught politics and was engaging – in two years, no one in that class wanted to miss a lesson. He had a talent for debate, constantly changing his viewpoint to keep his students thinking. Everyone did very well because of his passion, and no one wanted to let him down."
At 18, Mr Brown went to Hull to study for a degree in history with American studies. He described Hull as "a great place to be a student", and achieved a 2:1 degree. He got a temporary job managing a newspaper stand at W H Smith for a year so he could save up to travel. After years in education, Mr Brown and girlfriend Alison, who he met at university – now his wife – went on a world tour in 1991 before going back to Hull to start his teacher training qualification.
Mr Brown said: "We were both going to become teachers and thought it would be a good idea to see the world. It was amazing."
In 1994, Mr Brown began at Tollbar as a history teacher, going onto law and PE.
Outside of teaching, he lives in Lincolnshire with primary teacher Alison, daughters Hatty, 13, and Tilly, 9, and rescue dogs Poppy and Chalky.
"Poppy is a border collie cross and is well-behaved but we've just got a long-haired lurcher, Chalky, and he needs a bit of work," he said. "I don't think he's ever lived in a domestic situation before so I think we might have hard work ahead."
Mr Brown played for Nettleham Cricket Club until his daughters were born. He's a Leeds United fan, thanks to his grandfather, but thinks rugby players are a better example to young people.
"I do like football but the players are always arguing with the referee or rolling around on the floor and this recent business with Eden Hazard and the ball boy was just ridiculous. They should both have known better. The problem is you see young people emulating this behaviour, even at grass roots level.
"I'm a rugby fan. I never really had the build to play, but I've always watched with my dad who was a player and referee. Those guys play a much more physical game but they behave in a professional manner. They don't argue with the referee because they could get sent back ten metres which is a big disadvantage. I like football but watching the way they play the game really annoys me. The game needs to clean up its act."
As interesting as Mr Brown's past is, it is his plan for the future that will rouse the curiosity of parents who entrust their children to Cleethorpes Academy. The school has had a £7.7-million investment into a new technology block and sports hall which will be complete in September. In 2009, Ofsted inspectors judged standards as inadequate, but Mr Brown believes it would now be considered good. However, it is still not good enough for Mr Brown.
He said: "It is my ambition to turn this into an outstanding school. We are getting above average outcomes with a below average intake and those results speak volumes about the progress we have made. The Tollbar model has instilled a culture of success in this school and the chief executive David Hampson has helped drive ambition. However, I know better than anyone that there is still work to be done but improvement will continue and I expect the 2013 exam results to be our best ever."