Dartmouth Academy’s Head of English ll has had an interesting journey to become an inspirational teacher: from investment banking to marketing executive and then to head of English at Prince Charles’ school via Spain and a teacher training year in London.
Born in Torquay, Matt studied at Torquay Boys’ Grammar School. He left in the 1980s having been told by the school careers advisor he would be a wonderful teacher. His response? He laughed and went into property development in Spain and then tried his hand at banking in the city. But he was less than impressed.
“I studied English literature at University, but thought the most important thing – as everyone seemed to in the 80s – was to make money,” he said. “I then went straight to a job in the City working as a junior money broker. However, life in the City was not for me.”
Reading a self-help book that challenged its readers to ‘find themselves’ Matt realised something, and it would change his life: “It turned out my careers teacher was right and I should have been a teacher.”
He took a teacher training course in London.
Travelling in Europe during the course he called a girl he’d met on holiday seven years before. Yvo was from Belgium and he thought as he was going to be in that part of the world he should see what she was up to. They arranged to meet in Utrecht, where she was at University.
“From the moment Yvo and I reunited in a cobbled street in Utrecht, we both knew it was always meant to be,” Matt recalls. They are now married with three children.
Matt’s first job in teaching was at a boarding school in the Midlands – he applied for it out of curiosity about private education. He got the job and after a year was made Head of Drama.
He then moved on to become Head of Drama at King’s College, Taunton. He spent seven happy years there and directed more than 60 productions.
However, changes were afoot.
“I was offered the position of Housemaster, in charge of 74 boarders and a promotion in the school hierarchy,” he said.
“While the pastoral role is immensely rewarding, I decided after four happy years that I enjoyed the academic side much more and became Head of English at Gordonstoun, Prince Charles’ famous school in the far north of Scotland.”
The decision meant a massive change for Matt, his wife Yvo and their children:
“We moved as a family and enjoyed two and a half tremendous years, exploring the Highlands by wild-camping on expeditions, for which, as the founder of ‘outward bounds’ and the Duke of Edinburgh award scheme, Gordonstoun is famous.
“One third of Gordonstoun’s pupils are from overseas and it sometimes seemed to be crammed with the sons and daughters of European royalty, south Asian rulers, African princes and Russian oligarchs, but there are also children on full scholarships from the East End of London and East Yorkshire. It is one of the most democratic, egalitarian multi-cultural communities you could imagine with all pupils and staff put through the rigours of ‘crew’, where groups of students sail on the school’s ship around the Western Isles – there is no room for airs and graces in a Force five off the Isle of Rhum!
Matt taught the children of household names and leaders of major corporations and, during his time there, three members of the Royal Family visited the school; the Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh and Princess Anne.
But the things he takes away from the time there are more personal: “I trekked through blizzards into and home from work, would see deer grazing outside my classroom first thing in the morning and would go snowboarding on the weekends. Our whole family loved living in such a beautiful part of the country and we made many firm friends in a very short time.”
But it was not to be their permanent base: “At the end of our second year, I asked my wife whether it felt like home and she said, ‘I don’t think it’s our home.’”
Matt and Yvo began to look for somewhere to settle and saw an advert for the Head of English at Dartmouth Academy.
“When I flew down for interview, I fell for the Academy immediately - it was a small school with everything going for it - especially the pupils, who were polite, caring and with a great sense of humour. It was exciting to be part of the school’s new beginning. I told our children we were moving to the most beautiful town in Britain and told our eldest son, George that he was moving, like Prince Charles before him, from Gordonstoun to Dartmouth.”
Matt is passionate about English and literacy and has big plans for his English team and provision at Dartmouth Academy.
“Our plans in the department are ambitious - the GCSE students will take their plays and workshops on the road to primary schools as they did last year; debating and public speaking will be developed in House debating competitions and the pupils’ opinions and views will continue to be read not only in the Dartmouth Chronicle but on the LoveDartmouth website.
“It’s our duty as parents and teachers, to do our utmost to prepare them for an uncertain future in a mutually supportive community. As Dartmouth Academy upholds those ideals, and my family and I love living here, there’s no other job I’d rather have.”
First Published October 2012 By The Dart