New deputy head will make sure his pupils toe the line
- Credit: IAN BURT
A Hunstanton school believes its signing of a top-flight assistant referee as its new deputy headteacher will help to put it at the top of Norfolk's educational league table.
Lee Betts will join Smithdon High School from September with a goal of helping to further improve teaching so the Downs Road secondary can succeed in its quest to be rated as outstanding by Ofsted.
At only 32 years old, you would think Mr Betts would have a tough time keeping the school's 1,500 pupils in check – but, thanks to his experience on the touchline of Premier League games, a class of teenage students must seem like an open goal.
'Managing conflict is a key transferable skill between both environments,' said Mr Betts, who is also called upon to be the main referee for Conference-level games.
'You need a calm, measured approach to conflict, whether you're in school or on the football pitch.
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'Good quality, clear communication with the people you're trying to manage is a critical aspect.
'You have to build a rapport with people. They may not agree with every decision that is taken but they do understand why that decision has been made.'
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Mr Betts, who has been a teacher of maths and PE for 11 years and was previously assistant headteacher at Great Yarmouth High School, has just finished his first season as a Premier League linesman having completed five seasons in Leagues Two, One and the Championship.
He will start his second season in the greatest football league on earth just before he starts his new job at Smithdon – but is acutely aware it will require skills from both sides of his life.
Smithdon had previously been rated as 'inadequate' by Ofsted after inspectors criticised teaching, pupils' attainment and management at the school.
It has since begun a remarkable turnaround, achieving its best ever GCSE results last year – but Mr Betts said: 'We must never be complacent.'
'Smithdon High School is on an upward trajectory but there is still a lot to be done.
'I firmly believe the school has the potential to reach outstanding and I hope to play a key role in facilitating that.'
Key to that, he said, is 'continually to improve teaching and learning'.
In particular, he said there needed to be a move away from teacher-led learning, so that students were more involved in classes.
'It has to be active and it has to be collaborative,' he said.
'Students have to be let off the reins a little bit so they can explore and be allowed to work together to solve problems.
'If you do that, you are really facilitating their higher level thinking skills.
'There is a general acceptance that students can't be taught by lecture. Teaching has moved away from that.'
Mr Betts is confident his ability to withstand huge pressure on the pitch under the glare of the fans and the world's media will also stand him in good stead to deal with the scrutiny of helping to manage a large Norfolk secondary school.
Smithdon High School headteacher Jon Goodchild is pleased with his new signing.
He said: 'There is no doubt that Mr Betts's experience of dealing with Premiership players, managers and other officials will stand him in good stead for the rigours that lie ahead.
'The governors and I were intent on appointing a person of the highest quality.
'Mr Betts was the unanimous choice amongst governors, the senior leadership team, staff and students.
'Smithdon High School requires a leader who is driven by a set of values which places children at the very centre of decision making.
'Mr Betts is that person and his energy, insight, teaching ability and past experience will ensure he is successful at our school.
'Smithdon High School is on an upward trajectory of considerable proportion and Mr Betts will enable and support our continuing development and high profile as a school.
'Mr Betts will help us on our road to outstanding. We are really looking forward to his arrival.'