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'Bonkers' challenge facing learning head of Truro primary

By West Briton  |  Posted: September 13, 2012

Matt Middlemore, head of primary learning with pupils Lucy Rowe, Emily Whitehead, Jack Stone, Daniel Malcalmson and Cameron Stoddern.

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A FORMER Army captain has been drafted in to turn around the fortunes of a once failing Truro primary school.

Matt Middlemore is the new head of primary learning at Tregolls School, which officially becomes an academy in partnership with Penair School today.

The school was put into special measures by Ofsted in June last year.

But an inspection in July praised improvements in the past academic year under the temporary leadership of associate head teacher, Sheryll Alexandra.

The report said she "accomplished a great deal, securing the confidence of the school community, raising expectations and galvanising the enthusiasm of staff to improve".

Mr Middlemore said: "Sheryll built the staff confidence up, which makes it much easier for me. People are much more receptive here to change.

"The last inspection did very well and I hope we're not too far away from coming out of special measures."

The former Royal Artillery captain who trained at Sandhurst served in Bosnia, Kosovo, Northern Ireland and Iraq, turning his hand to education after teaching children skiing.

He said: "Teaching is totally different, but there's a similar mentality with schools which are in special measures – you have to get people to follow you and what you believe in.

"If you're in war and men don't believe in what you're trying to achieve you can find yourself in a lot of trouble.

"It's the same thing – getting people to buy into what you sell."

The teacher of 11 years, who taught at inner city schools in the Midlands before moving to Cornwall, describes his attraction to jobs at struggling schools as "bonkers" but admitted: "I wouldn't know what to do if I had a school that was outstanding.

"It's incredibly hard work, but when you get there it has got to be the most rewarding job there is."

The school is getting new branding, new classrooms, a new hall and new turquoise and navy blue uniforms.

While hoping to gain support from the community, the school is adopting a new international curriculum, encouraging independent learning and removing ability groups. Mr Middlemore said: "Every child has the right to the same lesson."

Senior staff at Penair are providing support, guidance and resources to Tregolls.

Penair head teacher, Barbara Vann, said she was "extremely excited" to be working with the school.

She added: "The new curriculum, beautiful uniform and refurbishment are a testament to the hard work and care shown by everyone involved in this journey of improvement at Tregolls."

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