About Jim Smith

After a childhood growing up in Essex and dodging a life working in the City (that’s the City of London for those less presumptuous than many Essex-dwelling folk), I moved and stayed in Bristol, where I studied both as an under-graduate and a post-graduate. I am not alone – my wife and two lovely children make up the household with only the latter two being able to lay claim to being true Bristolians.

Despite the careers advisor and JigCal Careers Questionnaire suggesting I should be a prison officer, the progression into education was almost inevitable as my late grandfather, my mother, my sister and wife all taught, meaning it felt somewhat like I was joining the ‘family business’ of teaching. (Hmm ... upon reflection, maybe the Careers Advisor had a point!)

I have now laughed/cried, taught geography and been a leader in schools for 20 years (I can only assume the celebratory carriage clock fell victim to the demise of the LEA and the growth of the academy movement) and it now truly seems a long time since my former and less satisfying career of selling washing machines (although I am still proud to say I have sold the same washing machine in both the UK and New Zealand, making for a lovely case study when I teach globalisation).

In the early years of my school career, my time in the classroom was happily spent exploring ways of engaging students with both the subject and, in some cases, their learning as a whole (which, incidentally, is no different to my current time in the classroom). An unusual jump up the career ladder then fell my way following a damning Ofsted visit many, many years ago (one of the older ones whereby you had several months, not hours, to come up with a few whizz-bang lessons). On the basis of that week-long inspection, it was decided the school needed new leadership and I found myself promoted from classroom teacher to a leadership role – with a remit to lead whole school teaching and learning.

In hindsight, this was me benefiting from one of my own lazy leadership principles: get the right people doing the right job, regardless of what tradition might say.

Plucked from the classroom and having never led a department, faculty, year team or house (which certainly includes the one where I live!), I was leading the school in its core business: teaching and learning. Both the school and I have never looked back since.

The training, conference talks, consultancy and the books all followed – quite by accident. It was simply work we were doing in our school mixed with my own thinking that others liked the sound of. But as the demand grew from people wanting training that was practical, engaging and had an impact the very next day in the classroom, the diary got busier and busier working all over the UK and abroad.

Visiting so many schools and meeting so many wonderful, committed educators is a book in itself, but suffice to say it is an immense privilege and one that confirms that whilst schools are all diverse and unique, the goal is common.

I am now very proud to say that alongside speaking at conferences, delivering INSETs and still being in the classroom, I am Head of School – making sure we continue on our journey which we started following ‘that’ Ofsted inspection. Albeit a journey undertaken in a decidely lazy way!

Beyond the school gates, my time with family, a whole array of fantastic friends, and that spent following the mixed fortunes of Bristol Rugby Club means life is pleasantly packed and holidays are most welcome, which – more often or not – means a BBQ, a cold beer and a family meal sat outside our tent. Bliss.

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