After five years at the helm, Mark Solomon admits that he has a few more grey hairs than half a decade ago, but in that time he has helped the village’s school celebrate 50 years of education and seen it earn ‘Good’ status from Ofsted
When were you appointed headmaster of Upton Noble Church of England VC Primary School?
I have been at Upton Noble School since the 1 September 2010. It was quite a year for me as I had got married a few months earlier, my wife was expecting our first child and I had become a head teacher for the first time. It was quite a journey.
What schools had you worked at before and in what role?
Before Upton Noble I worked in Wiltshire at Neston Primary and before that at Colerne Primary School. They were both similar sized schools to Upton Noble and they gave me an excellent grounding for what was to come. In between the two schools I took a year’s sabbatical and travelled the globe. Seeing other parts of the world gave me a real appreciation of the West Country.
Why did you choose Upton Noble School?
From the first tour of the school with the previous headmaster, Chris Tyrrell, I knew that Upton Noble was the school for me. It was a school that needed some leadership and pointing in the right direction. Once that was achieved the school has gone from strength to strength.
What do you like about the school and the job…
The challenges. No two days are ever the same and although the number of grey hairs on my head has increased since that bright day over five years ago, the excitement of being a head teacher is still there. There is also something so special about the children at our school. Whenever we go to events or play a sporting fixture we are always the most polite and respectful group. It makes a head teacher very proud and makes such a difference to our school.
…And the village?
One of the first people I met from the village was Melinda Baker and it proved to me that this was a community full of warm, compassionate and helpful people. Every day I have spent at Upton Noble has confirmed this and more. If I could move here I would but I think the house market might price me out.
How does the liaison with Bruton work?
The federation with Bruton is working well. The purpose of joining two schools is to open up opportunities; opportunities for staff and pupils. We have a joint set of governors and staff who work across both schools. As an executive headteacher it is my job to oversee both schools and Emma-Louise James’s job to make an impact with the teaching and learning element. We are now in to our third year and every term new opportunities are presented.
What does Upton Noble school get out of the arrangement?
The children of our school get to learn alongside children from another school and begin to form extra friendships that may continue into secondary school, whether that is through extension maths days at Sexey’s, joint enterprise projects, residential visits, musical concerts or art projects at Mill on the Brue. Alongside this the staff of both schools get the opportunity to learn from each other and share practice with a greater number of fellow practitioners, as well as being able to swap teachers between the schools, as with Mr Cambourne. It must be working in some small way as Upton Noble gained the best KS2 results in 2015 that we have ever had.
What are your aspirations for Upton Noble School?
To continue to help create respectful, resilient and creative learners who can do great things in the ever-changing 21st century. There is something very special about Upton Noble children that you can never quite put your finger on — I like to call it great parenting.
What are the school’s greatest achievements since you have been at the helm?
That every time I speak to the head teachers of our local secondary schools, or go on trips, they mention that our children are something extra special and a cut above the rest. Also, it seems like a long time ago now, but before I joined Upton Noble it had been classified as a ‘Satisfactory’ school by Ofsted for many years. We are now rightfully a ‘Good’ school and aim to remain there, no matter how many times they change the goal posts.
What did the schools 50th anniversary in 2015 mean to you?
Being part of Upton Noble Church of England VC Primary School when it turned 50 was one of the greatest honours I could imagine in education. It was a truly wonderful time to reflect on all that the school has achieved over the last 50 years. There were so many heartwarming stories from former teachers and pupils, perhaps none more so than the couple who met on the opening day of the school, years later got married and remain together to this day.
How did you celebrate?
We celebrated in the main with an evening celebration that included a fireworks display and also an exhibition of photos and stories from the past 50 years. We are also soon going to be unveiling the 50-year banner.
Tell us about yourself
To tell you about me is to to tell you about my wife, Kate, and our two children, Henry and Elspeth. I’m a family man who enjoys nothing more than to go for a walk in the Wiltshire countryside near my home and play spot the tractor. I would also like to claim to be a rugby player, but I’m not sure one game a season really counts.