The head and deputy at Forest Preparatory School, in Timperley, Cheshire, part of Bellevue Education Group, have announced they will be taking part in an unusual job swap from September 2021.
In a move that might be seen as bold by many heads, current headteacher Rick Hyde has agreed to swap his headship with deputy and Year 5 teacher Graeme Booth.
Here, we meet Rick and Graeme – who have both been in their current roles since 2009 – to find out why they decided to make the shift, which will see the headteacher returning to the classroom and the deputy taking the helm.
Rick Hyde: “Initially, we both thought, ‘that doesn’t happen’.”
“We came to the decision of the role switch together. Graeme was discussing having enjoyed a period as acting headteacher last year, and I was discussing the possibility of stepping away from a headship, keen to be back in the classroom.
“Initially, we both thought, ‘that doesn’t happen!’ but with a little more conversation, we asked… ‘well, why not?’
“I’ve been teaching for over 25 years, and this is my third school. I joined Forest 16 years ago, as deputy headteacher, then moved into the role of head of school before taking on the headteacher role.
“I feel re-energised at the idea of being back in the classroom, and I really can’t wait.”
“Having now been in this role for 14 years, I feel I’ve seen the school become what it is today. Graeme, with his even longer-standing connection to the school, is absolutely the right person to take the school further on its journey. I’m excited to support Graeme in the way he’s supported me.
“The great thing is that while it’s a brilliant step for Graeme, it also means I get to stay in education too, which I am so passionate about. I feel re-energised at the idea of being back in the classroom, and I really can’t wait.
“In a few years we celebrate our centenary. Our last inspection was outstanding in all areas. For a small school, we celebrate so many achievements, particularly in sport and drama. And some of our pupils have just been awarded scholarships in creative subjects too.
“They haven’t batted an eyelid. A lot of the nursery children think we are the same person anyway.”
“Knowing the parents and staff as long as we have, and judging from the very warm messages we’ve received, it seems the switch has gone down really well. As for the pupils, I haven’t had any negative comments at all. Some will rush up to me and excitedly say they’ve heard the news, but beyond this, they haven’t batted an eyelid. A lot of the nursery children think we are the same person anyway!
“I think to other heads it’s perhaps quite an intriguing idea. But I’d be surprised if we were the first to do this. Then again, we could start a trend here!
Graeme Booth: “We’ve both become much more open-minded, and willing to give things a shot.”
“The pandemic made Rick and I reflect on what’s important. I feel we’ve both become much more open-minded, and willing to give things a shot.
“I joined Forest as a pupil in 1989. Then, aged 16, I came back to help in the nursery as part of my community placement with my school at the time, Cheadle Hulme. During my teacher training at Manchester Metropolitan University, I worked in the kindergarten at Forest, before running after-school clubs, the school’s breakfast club, painting classrooms… and finally becoming a teacher myself, in 2009.
“I was once sat on the hall floor as a three-year-old. Now, I am about to become headteacher.”
“It is mad to think that all those years ago, I was sat on the hall floor as a three-year-old. And now, I’ve been sat in the same spot learning that I am about to become headteacher.
“95 per cent of Forest children who sat grammar school examinations last month passed at least one. Forest challenges children to get the best of their potential, whilst at the same time, loving every minute of being in school. That independence, the ownership of learning that they carry into adulthood… that’s what Forest is about.
“This is why I came back when I was 16. If like I can, you can say, as an adult, you love being in school, that’s one of the best feelings imaginable. I think it’s testament to the school that Rick and I both wanted to stay here – we have very, very little staff turnover.
“Rick and I know what each other is thinking. I know at the end of the day, there will be three empty tea mugs on his desk. He knows that my classroom will need a hoover.”
“Rick and I know what each other is thinking, and we do take the mickey out of each other. I know at the end of the day, there will be three empty tea mugs on Rick’s desk. He knows that my classroom will need a hoover at the end of the day. It sounds a bit cheesy, but little things like this pay off; we know each other’s thought processes. So we knew this was the right thing – for the school, and for both of us.
“I will really miss teaching. I want to keep visiting classrooms as much as possible, even just to pop in and read a story. But I’m so excited to get stuck into in my new role. And what I can take from the pandemic – remembering that we have endured tough times, and we can take on even bigger challenges – will guide me forwards”
For more information about Forest Preparatory School, visit their website here.