Sun, 04 Oct 2020
Tom Goodenough took over as headteacher at Park House School last month
A new headteacher said it felt like coming home when he took over the reins at a Newbury school last month.
Tom Goodenough, who was born and bred in the town, started at the helm of Park House School, Andover Road, at the beginning of the new academic year and said things were going very well so far, despite the unusual time we all find ourselves in.
“It’s a really fascinating time to take over as head at a new school and I love it,” he said. “It isn’t ideal but it’s something to take on and adds a new dimension to it all.
“It’s nice to be at the heart of getting back to normal too.
“For many students you could see it on their face, they were keen to come back to school and a bit of normality.”
For Mr Goodenough the lure of the headship at a Newbury school was too good an
opportunity to miss.
“I always promised myself if any of the Newbury jobs came up I would go for them,” he admitted.
“For me school matters and community matters.
“I have come home and it feels good.
“There is always something extra-motivating about working in your own community.
“There’s something familiar about it.
“There’s something about it here; I think it’s a really lovely place.”
After finishing his A-levels at St Bartholomew’s School – “My brother called me a turncoat,” he laughed. “But I think that was his way of saying congratulations.” – Mr Goodenough went off to study psychology and media at Leeds University, but quickly realised it wasn’t the course for him.
He wanted to study English, but with no places on the course in Leeds he moved to London and Middlesex University.
He says that culturally it was a decision he really enjoyed – the fact that the halls of residence were on White Hart Lane, just a stone’s throw from his beloved Tottenham Hotspur Football Club had no bearing on his
decision, he assured me.
After graduating in 2001, he moved back to Newbury and spent a short time back where he had spent most of his holidays – working at Vodafone.
From there he moved to Bayer, which he clearly enjoyed, but he always seemed destined to work in education – his grandparents were both teachers and his mother, Janis Goodenough, was the well-known headteacher of St John’s Infant School, Newbury, for 16 years. She retired in 2013 after 26 years at the school.
“I always knew I was going to be a teacher but thought I would see what it was like in a ‘normal’ working environment first,” said the 42-year-old, who lives in Newbury with his wife and two young sons.
“I really enjoyed my time at Bayer and it was a great company to work for, but it then got to the point where I knew I had to do it now or I wouldn’t be able to go back into education.”
So at the age of 27, he completed his PGCE at the University of Reading.
Stints at The Hurst Community College, Baughurst, as an English teacher, then at The Willink, Burghfield Common, followed.
He then took up the post of head of English at Chiltern Edge School, Sonning Common, before moving to Didcot Girls, where he quickly went from head of English to headteacher.
Mr Goodenough left his post in Didcot earlier in the year and spent time working in a
consultancy capacity with the police, advising on how to get early intervention in schools to tackle violent crime, before he started at Park House last month.
“I like a challenge and headship is the ultimate challenge,” he said.
"There’s a real community feel at Park House and the welcome has been really great, from staff, students, parents and other local schools.”
He said it had been a little frustrating not to be able to enjoy the usual assemblies at the start of term, but that has also meant he has had the opportunity to meet students on a much more personal basis.
“Long-term strategy is a challenge because you don’t know what is coming next,” he added.
“There is an extra level of planning to everything and there needs to be an extra level of flexibility.
“But we cannot stand still in schools. A more active approach to teaching is a challenge at the moment, with social distancing, so we are focusing on things like ethos, respect and community.
“We are being pretty measured about the changes though, as nobody needs too much change at the moment.”
And some of the challenges Mr Goodenough and his staff are encountering are ones that nobody would have even
considered this time last year – pupils’ work must be ‘quarantined’ for five days before a teacher can mark it and then another five before it can be handed back to the children.
A Covid catch-up fund – which is being given termly by the Government to all schools – is helping to fill any gaps in
learning and Mr Goodenough said that currently Ofqual has said that this year’s exams will go ahead as usual.
“From day one it has been about filling any gaps and every department has its own plan for the year,” he said.
“It’s an interesting challenge, but it’s all just logistics so they can be overcome.”