Sir Peter Simpson, who has been the figurehead of the Brooke Weston Trust since its formation in 2007, is retiring after a 40-year career in education.
It started in 1971 when he took up the position of science teacher at an all boys’ school in Leytonstone. This provided a good grounding for Sir Peter, who credits the head of department for influencing him during those early days.
Sir Peter said: 'Your entry into teaching was much less considered than it is now. There was no induction, no monitoring – you turned up and were given a room, a timetable and a class and you got on with it. My head of department was a very effective teacher so he was an ideal mentor.
'I was working in a comparatively difficult London school and it gave me a good starting point. Whenever I’m taking a decision now that will affect the lives of teachers, I remember my most difficult class in that first school and remind myself of how difficult it can be.
'I think the biggest change in education is the degree of care that we extend to individual students. When I started out, it was very much a question of teaching a class: now it’s a question of trying to teach an individual. Children are treated much more like people than they were 40 years ago, when we still had the cane.'
Sir Peter also taught in Bedfordshire and Wales and was a local authority inspector before he decided on a return to working in schools. He was appointed as Vice Principal at what is now Brooke Weston Academy before taking on the role of Principal in 1999. His contribution to education was recognised with an OBE and five years later in 2011, a knighthood.
His personal highlights from the last 40 years range from the realisation in the early days that teaching was something he could do well, to the day Corby Business Academy opened its doors for the first time. Sir Peter also enjoyed his role in curriculum development in Wales, as part of the Technical and Vocational Educational Initiative.
He said: 'First and foremost, what I’m most proud of is the achievement of Brooke Weston Academy. It’s an outstanding school in the town and it’s a tremendous achievement for everyone who has contributed. It got off to a very good start with the first Principal, Gareth Newman, who was quite radical.
'My proudest achievement as an individual is CBA. It’s a good school that has replaced a difficult and troubled school. The opening day of CBA was a culmination of a five-year project.
'I’m also pleased that I managed to bring £66m of capital investment to this little corner of Northamptonshire and the development of any new school is something to be proud of.
'But what I’m most pleased with is that what we have done as a Trust has given opportunities to students. Corby is a good example of different people and different organisations working together to make the town a better place to live.'
Looking back on the last 40 years, Sir Peter paid tribute to the people he has worked alongside. He said: 'The key factor of my life at work is that I have never not wanted to go into work. I have been extraordinarily fortunate with the people I have worked with, as a senior leader and in my junior days.
'Andrew Campbell will be a highly effective leader for the Trust and the schools within the Trust will get better and better. My last message to staff would be about expectations and aspirations. Students should have high aspirations for themselves and teachers should have high expectations and aspirations for their students. To some extent, I think you get what you expect.'
Article written by Monique Mills.