Norwich headteacher scoops major award

Steve DownesHeadteacher Tony Hull was keen to deflect the glory as he picked up a sought-after 'Oscar' for the teaching industry.Steve Downes

Headteacher Tony Hull was keen to deflect the glory as he picked up a sought-after 'Oscar' for the teaching industry.

The head of Costessey Junior and West Earlham Junior was named head of the year in a primary school at the East of England Teaching Awards ceremony at Bishops Stortford yesterday.

The gong was a fitting reward for a man who has hauled three struggling Norwich-area schools out of special measures in the last decade.

But Mr Hull admitted he was 'highly embarrassed' to win the prize, which puts him in the running for the national award, which will be announced in October in London.

The father-of-three said: 'I'm absolutely delighted on behalf of everybody at the two schools. I believe this is recognition for the schools, not just for me.

'We try to operate with a team approach. There's plenty of smiling. We do not take ourselves too seriously, but we take the job seriously.'

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He added: 'I'm highly embarrassed to be singled out. You can take a headteacher out of the school and the school carries on. But the teachers are at the chalk face and if you take them out, things change.

'That's why it's embarrassing. Nobody stops to think about how important other people are, including the caretaker and the administration staff.'

Despite his modesty, Mr Hull's success has been extraordinary.

He began teaching 30 years ago and took his first headship at St Edmund's Catholic Primary in Bungay, Suffolk, in 1996.

Four years later, he took over at St Michael's Middle in Bowthorpe, a few days before it went into special measures.

Within a year it was out of special measures, and in April 2002 Mr Hull moved on to lead Costessey Junior at Three Mile Lane, which had by then been in special measures for a year.

In March 2003, the school was removed from special measures, and went on to be rated good with outstanding features at a later inspection.

Mr Hull, who remains head at Costessey Junior, was also appointed head of West Earlham Junior on Scarnell Road in 2008.

The school was in special measures, but Mr Hull worked his magic once more to get it out by March 2009.

Mr Hull said: 'I love the job. If I didn't, I wouldn't get up and go in. There is so much variety. That's good for me because I have a very low boredom threshold.'

He added: 'You get to spend so much time talking to people, which is wonderful.'

But he acknowledged that there were challenges ahead, including balancing budgets while retaining the 'highest possible standards'.

Mr Hull said being headteacher at two schools at the same time was 'absolutely fine, as long as you are surrounded by an excellent staff on both sites'.

He said: 'Both places work well together and learn from each other.'

He added that it 'brought a tear to his eye' to be a part of the awards ceremony.

He said: 'It was extraordinary to hear what was said about and by the people involved. To be in a room full of people of that calibre was humbling.'

More than 20 nominees from Norfolk, Suffolk, Cambridgeshire, Hertfordshire, Northamptonshire and Essex attended the ceremony, having beaten hundreds of other people to make the final shortlist.

They were cheered on by a 250-strong audience at the event at The Rhodes Art Complex at Bishop's Stortford, which was hosted by BBC Look East presenter Susie Fowler-Watt.

Caroline Evans, chief executive of the Teaching Awards, said: 'This is an exciting day for individuals who have been recognised and rewarded. Congratulations to them all and to their schools where the brilliance rubs off.'

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