Educating Yorkshire’s Mr Burton: ‘half the battle is raising aspirations’

The Guardian has an interview with Educating Yorkshire’s Matthew Burton to coincide with the Christmas Special which was screened last night. This is an extract…

…Half the battle is raising students’ aspirations. The bond between the staff and students at Thornhill is absolutely wonderful. There is a real sense of community and pride in the place we work. The kids are incredible in terms of their personalities and they all have a desire to work, to improve, to be better.

The school is situated in quite a deprived area and while that’s not a challenge in itself, some of our kids are from backgrounds where it’s actually a miracle if they turn up on time. What we do is work to improve things for them. Whatever we can do to help them get a step up. When they are in year 7 they may not have an interest in higher educational studies but our job is to make sure that they want to go on and make something of themselves, to go into employment and be successful.

Educating Yorkshire has given people a sense of pride in the community, not just the school. There is a real sense that people in the local area are impressed by what we do. One of the pubs around the corner had a sign up for the two months the show aired on Channel 4 reading, “Watch Educating Yorkshire here. Live on the big screen”. If they weren’t proud of what was going on they wouldn’t have done that and after the final episode they stood up and gave us a round of applause. It was lovely and there was a real sense of people walking a couple of inches taller. That is exactly what we wanted from the series…

Musharaf’s breakthrough using headphones to conquer his stammer was a complete shock to me. I certainly didn’t expect that to happen and people always ask me if it was scripted but it was a complete coincidence. My only thought about the headphones was that it would be a bit of a respite for him and hopefully wouldn’t drag him backwards at all or make him feel any less confident than he already did. We taught him that there’s nothing physically stopping the words coming out. He’s not perfect by any means now, but he’s improved and you should see the pride on his face when he gets a 20 second burst of words without a stammer. It’s great that those periods of success are more and more regular than this time last year when he was struggling to get simple words out as you saw…

We provided a voice for teachers across the country. We are proud of the work we do, of the stories we have to tell and of the kids we’ve got. We know how hard our colleagues in the school and across the country work. Educating Yorkshire showed viewers that yes it’s hard, yes it’s graft but it’s absolutely worth it because of those moments when a student has an epiphany or a breakthrough, wakes up to problem and sorts it out.

More at:  Educating Yorkshire’s Mr Burton: ‘half the battle is raising aspirations’

If you were out at a school Christmas concert like me, here’s a link to watch the programme on line

If half the battle in schools like Thornhill is raising students’ aspirations, what approaches do you think can make a difference? Please share in the comments or on twitter… 


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Categories: Secondary.


  1. CASEeducation

    SchoolsImprove creativity, parental and community engagement, opening doors, introducing new inspiring initiatives, believing in them!

  2. neilayates

    SchoolsImprove Hopefully we’ve now realised if we tell kids they are worthless enough times they start to believe it & act accordingly

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