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Forest Academy appoints new Principal

Croydon born and bred Wayne Cooper says it's good to be back home

Posted by Hannah Vickers | September 14, 2017 | People, policy, politics

Life has gone full circle for Croydon born and bred head teacher Wayne Cooper.

From September, Wayne will be head teacher at Forest Academy, part of The Synaptic Trust. After growing up in the area and then moving away in 2004 the 46-year-old says he has a real sense that he’s back home.

“I always knew I’d come back to Croydon,” he explained. 

Wayne, whose parents moved here from Jamaica, says he’d always wanted to be a teacher but was embarrassed to admit it. “I kept it quiet for a long time.”

His mum had dreamed of being a teacher but never had the opportunity. His sister is now a teacher and he has an aunt back in Jamaica who has gone into the profession too.

“I remember growing up that I did have a couple of teachers that were amazing.”

Wayne went to Kingsley Primary School in Croydon before going on to Norbury High Manor School and then Selhurst High School, where he took his A Levels. His next step was taking a teaching degree with French at the University of Roehampton.

 “I always thought I’d teach French but then I went to my brother’s primary school for work experience and I loved it. I never looked back.”

His teaching career began in Croydon before he moved into inner London and then he decided he wanted to move to Cambridgeshire, where he was a head teacher in his last school. “I wanted to work outside London. I wanted to teach different children and I knew I couldn’t be a head teacher until I had taught every year group and could talk to my teachers having had that experience.”

Leaving London was a big step and Wayne admits to being a bit homesick. The cultural context was also very different.

“Whenever I've looked around schools for senior positions I always ask myself, 'Can this community staff, governors and parents cope with a black man as their leader?' It's never a problem for the children. They are always far more ahead when it comes to embracing diversity,” said Wayne.

Currently, only 3.1% of headteachers are from black and minority ethnic groups (compared to 7.6% of all teachers).

Wayne says that in regards to obstacles he faces being a black senior leader, that apart from when he worked in Lambeth, where it was actively supported, he felt that key teachers were earmarked for promotion quite early in their careers without a consideration for how the racial and cultural demographic in Croydon was changing. “Black teachers were often left out of that. As a black leader, you are often required to manage behaviour or to be a positive role model. And, of course, raise standards. So, we have to prove ourselves that way,” he explained.

Now he is back in Croydon, Wayne is looking forward to meeting people and being an inspirational role model.

The main message is that I’m from Croydon. I understand the area and what it’s like to come from a culturally diverse town. I want to promote pupils’ voices and contribute to their learning - Wayne Cooper, Head of Forest Academy

“The main message is that I’m from Croydon. I understand the area and what it’s like to come from a culturally diverse town. I want to promote pupils’ voices and contribute to their learning,” he said.

“And I’m really looking forward to having the support of local people, friends, former colleagues and being back in my area.”

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