Craig Mairs, 1996 English: Principal of Oldham Hulme Grammar Schools

by | 4 Jul 2016 | Alumni Stories, English | 0 comments

Craig Mairs outside Oldham Hulme GSs

A Secondary PGCE Alumni Story: Craig Mairs, Principal of Oldham  Hulme Grammar Schools

Having completed my MA in English Literature and History in Edinburgh, I came to Manchester in 1995 to undertake my English PGCE at the University of Manchester School of Education. I vividly remember my English tutor, John Keen, laughing when I described it as “coming down south”.

I enjoyed the early weeks of the course, but felt that I really flourished when the school placements started. I was placed in Oldham, at Oldham Hulme Grammar School. At the time I didn’t know where Oldham was and spent a Saturday afternoon finding the school in advance of my placement. As I got off the bus in Oldham and told the driver why I was trying to find the school, he said: “You’re lucky; that’s a very good school”. I quickly found that I agreed with him, felt very much at home and felt fortunate to be offered a job as an NQT teaching English in September 1996. Twenty years on, I still feel fortunate to work there, but also feel the responsibility of ensuring that it remains a very good school in my role as Principal.

My career path to Principal has been an unconventional one! The received wisdom is to move on and gain experience in a range of schools. Whilst I believe this is good advice, I was able to marry career progression with being able to work in a school I had grown to love, and which my own children now attend. Early pastoral responsibilities as a Head of Year were followed by promotion to Head of English. In 2012 I was appointed Deputy Principal with responsibility for the Sixth Form and I am now in my second year as Principal.

I have always believed in a holistic approach to education, and one of the greatest joys of my job has been my involvement in the school’s rich extra-curricular programme: running sports teams and producing over a dozen school shows. For a teacher, the value in these activities lies in the excellent relationships created with the students, which I found translated to the classroom.

On my PGCE course the tutor confidently told us that he was good at matching students to the placements which would suit them best. I learned much on my course, but would argue that my tutor’s ability to do precisely this had a very significant impact upon my career. I am very grateful for this and was happy to maintain links with the university when I was an English teacher by serving as a mentor for student teachers. I am pleased that these links remain with the English department at Hulme today.

For those of you who are passionate about your subject and about working with young people, I can thoroughly recommend a career in teaching. Demanding and sometimes frustrating: yes; but ultimately it is rewarding and immensely satisfying to make a difference to young people’s lives. The University of Manchester PGCE course is a very good place to start.