Pix Brook Academy opened the doors to a beautiful new building at the start of this school year. I had the pleasure of a tour and a conversation with Steve Adams, the Principal and clearly the driving force behind much of what the new school has achieved.
AF: Thank you for meeting today! Would you mind starting out by introducing yourself?
SA: Hi, I’m Steve Adams. I’m the Principal of Pix Brook Academy in Stotfold.
AF: How long have you been in education?
SA: 25 years.
AF: Wow, long time! What made you get into teaching?
SA: I was a late joiner: I didn’t start teaching until I’d had another career. My degree is in economics; I subsequently got a job working for a construction firm, trying to be a surveyor. And it’s possibly – in my opinion – the most boring way of spending your time.
SA: It certainly wasn’t for me! I worked quite hard and saved, then travelled for a couple of years. While I was travelling, I met a number of people who were teachers. They were travelling in the holidays and I thought, “Oh, this might work for me, because I really like travelling. So I’ll go and do that.” I came back and trained at the London Institute of Education as an economics teacher, and I loved it.
AF: What is it about teaching that you find so engaging?
SA: I think if you work with young people, then every minute of every day is a question to be solved, a question to be answered. And I think if you’re helping others feel like what they’re doing is worthwhile – and that includes staff and pupils – then the day feels valuable.
AF: Did you know early on that you wanted to get into the management side of things?
SA: I decided this very early on, probably naively, actually, but I wanted to be in charge of things, because that’s in my nature.
AF: And what do you find most rewarding about being the Principal of Pix Brook?
SA: Oh, loads of things. But if you don’t find working with the kids the best bit, then you probably wouldn’t have done the kind of time in schools that I’ve done, because that is absolutely the best bit. No question about it.
AF: In terms of the situation we’ve had with the lockdown and coronavirus: what kind of ramifications has it had for Pix Brook?
SA: I think we’ve managed the process pretty well. During the period of initial lockdown and towards the summer, 210+ different directives and guidelines came through to schools. Responding to those, as well as doing your job, is not easy. If you combine that with trying to get the school off the ground and instructing effectively and properly, it was quite busy.
AF: Sounds intense! What would you like people to know about the school?
SA: I’m most proud of the way in which my colleagues are working with the pupils. There’s a number of things that have been added to what is already an enormously busy role, and an enormously challenging role to do effectively. I’m mindful of how my colleagues have responded to that: they have been brilliant.
AF: You feel like everybody’s pulling in the same direction?
SA: Absolutely. And that’s not a given. The school has doubled in size. Not only are we in a new building in a new sort of regime of restrictions and guidelines, but we’ve also got a brand new body of pupils, and staff, all of whom have got to try and become part and parcel of what it is to be at Pix Brook. That is why I’m very mindful of ensuring that when I go into the classes, that I have an impact, just by virtue of the fact that pupils need to know who I am and what I stand for, and so do the staff.
AF: Do you go into the classrooms?
SA: I go into every classroom, every day, at least twice.
AF: Wow! I don’t think I’ve heard of the principal in other schools being as hands-on with the students…
SA: It would be easy not to do. I greet the pupils at the gate every morning, and I’m on the gate every night. I do every break time and I do every lunchtime. I will go around lessons, at least twice during the course of the day. The purpose of that is for me to see what’s going on and to remind everyone what we should be doing. I’ll try to engage with a class because I like the teachers to know that I do remember what it’s like to be in a class. I’m continually reminded of this at home because my wife is the head of science at a large secondary school; she reminds me regularly that the job requires support to do effectively. And it’s easy to sit and criticise, complain, comment if you’re not doing it. So get back in there and do it and remind yourself what it’s actually like. So I’ve never lost sight of that.
AF: It’s so lovely to hear. I’m sure you get a really warm response from the children as well.
SA: I guess you’d have to ask them. I’d like to think so. Sometimes I have to pop in for other reasons, and I get less of a warm response!
SA: But that’s part of the job as well, isn’t it? The teachers and staff are used to me coming and going, and I don’t think the kids would even notice. It’s been how I’ve done it all along. The staff we’ve got here are very good, and I want them to know they’re supported. And I want people to know who I am. I never wanted to be an invisible head teacher – that would miss the best part of the job.
AF: Well, thank you again for agreeing to do this, I really appreciate it!
SA: You’re very welcome. I’m glad you were able to come!
Amber Fortier moved to Fairfield Park in 2017 with her husband and three young children. She is originally from New York.