Tom Turnham

Headteacher, Lyndhurst Primary School

From deputy head to headteacher

We sat down with Tom Turnham, the new Headteacher at Lyndhurst Primary School, to look back at the path that led him to this role.

What bought you into teaching?

Having finished my master’s degree in Strategic Marketing Communications, I found what I thought would be a temporary job working in a bank while I finished writing my dissertation. Fast forward half a decade and I was still working for the bank, although the comfort of a regular salary was no longer providing me with the sense of purpose and satisfaction that I craved. I wanted something more fulfilling, something that mattered. I wanted my efforts to have an impact. I narrowed my options down to teaching or becoming a paramedic. I’d like to say that I then thoroughly researched my options, but the reality is that the PGCE interview date happened to fall first…the rest as they say is history.

Where have you worked?

I started work at Dulwich Hamlet Junior School in my third year of teaching. It was the school where I had completed my second PGCE placement and I was thrilled to be working there. I thrived in the safety of established structures and systems, and in a setting that had decades of experience. It was there that I learnt how to lead a subject and then a year team. A fantastic opportunity to help establish the Key Stage Two Provision at The Belham Primary School then arose. It was a role in which I could utilise the years of established practice learnt at The Hamlet. There are many challenges that come with starting a new school, it was both exciting and daunting to be doing everything for the first time. It was at The Belham that I developed my knowledge & understanding about finance, HR and curriculum design. During this time, I was also fortunate to engage with the London South Teaching Schools Hub and The Charles Dickens Research School. Both organisations have helped me develop as a confident leader.

What’s it like working as part of a Trust?

For me working in the Trust has opened doors. It’s created opportunities and provided a network of people that I can go to for support. I often tell people that our Trust is special, in part because of its commitment to stay local, but also because of its clear desire to stay current rather than just being compliant. The research school and teaching hub have without doubt shaped my career. They gave me the tools and confidence I needed to engage in education as a profession rather than viewing myself as ‘just’ a teacher.

It’s brilliant to be able to talk about the many people-focussed initiatives that the Trust are developing: the promotion of flexible working, the equality of parental and adoption leave, changes to support work-life balance and apprentice and career development options for all staff not just teachers.

What’s it like to work in the community that you live in?

Apart from a short stretch living in Canada, I’ve lived in South-East London for most of my life. I learnt to ride my bike in Dulwich Park and took my first solo-bus trip in Peckham.

When I started working in education the decision to work close to where I lived was to make travel to and from School as easy as possible. But I soon discovered there was a certain magic to living and working in the same community. You feel like you are part of something much bigger when you see the impact you have playing out in front of you. Primary School teachers rarely get the opportunity to see the full growth of our pupils, but being local means I’ve seen my first cohort of year fives in Dulwich leave for university (and return).

I recently bumped into a student that I’d taught in year five, who has become the first person in her family to go to university. I felt honoured that she and her Mum stopped me in the street beaming with pride to tell me all about it—you don’t get those sorts of goosebumps when you work in a bank.

How is your new role as Headteacher of Lyndhurst Primary School going?

Starting as the new Headteacher of Lyndhurst was a rollercoaster of emotions, I was terrified, and I was exhilarated. Standing up for the first time in front of all the staff in late August was daunting, but thankfully I’ve been made to feel so welcome by everyone. It really is true what they say…Lyndhurst has a huge heart. It’s felt odd starting a new school where I don’t have a class of my own. I’ve had to make more of an effort to learn names and introduce myself to anyone willing to stop and chat! Without a doubt I’ve tested my capacity and knowledge more than ever before, but I’ve not been alone. The team at Lyndhurst have been amazingly supportive and the Trust Networks have provided assitance, resources, guidance or just somebody to talk too.

“We often talk about our trust being a family of schools and I can honestly say that’s exactly what I’ve experienced. Individuals who care about each other and without being prompted reach out to help and support. That, after all, is what families do.”

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