As a lad Tony Draper’s goal was to play for Huddersfield Town. Either that or be a journalist.
But both ambitions were eclipsed by a spell of work experience at a Huddersfield school.
He got the teaching bug and that set him on the road to a career which has just seen him named as the head of a school leaders’ union.
Mr Draper, 53, who was a pupil at Meltham CE and Honley High Schools and whose family still live in Meltham, is the new president of the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT).
And he hopes to return to his home town of Huddersfield to address education problems in the area.
“I hope to visit the Kirklees branch of the NAHT and get round some of the local schools, which I know are under the cosh in terms of Ofsted outcomes and inspections,” said Mr Draper, who has been head teacher at a school near Milton Keynes since 2003.
“I very much want to talk to school leaders in Kirklees who feel they have been treated unfairly.”
As a youngster he says he was very much influenced by ‘great teachers’ at both primary and high schools. He went to university in Northampton and from there took up teaching posts around that area, achieving his first headship in Milton Keynes in 2000.
In 2003 he was asked to take on Water Hall Primary School in Bletchley, a school going through turbulent times.
“The school is near an estate which is one of the most deprived in the south east,” said Mr Draper. “It is very challenging. It was a failing school but we have a great team and we have turned it round. I couldn’t walk away from those kids.”
“But it’s not as often as I would like and I have to make do with seeing the games on TV,” he said.
While harbouring a wish to play for Town, a teenage Mr Draper also enjoyed writing and did some work experience at the Examiner as he weighed up his options.
“I loved it at the local newspaper, absolutely,” he said. “But I went to Meltham County Primary and that gave me the teaching bug. It changed my mind about what I wanted to do and I have never looked back.”
During his year in office, Mr Draper is looking forward to the NAHT having a different relationship with the Education Secretary Nicky Morgan and to “positive talks about working with schools and reform.”
He reckons the biggest challenge facing schools is funding. “Budgets could be cut by up to 13% in the next few years,” he said.
“It’s a huge issue, as is assessment. Children are becoming exam fodder and just jumping through hoops. And that won’t create the engineers and innovators of the future.”
As NAHT president, Mr Draper has pledged to focus on helping poorer children.
“We have put children at the heart of our efforts to work with the government on raising standards in education and I’m passionate about continuing that work,” he said. “In a survey, over 2,000 of our members showed most are providing more help and support to disadvantaged families than they were five years ago.
“While the government has promised to maintain education spending in line with increasing pupil numbers, we know there will be huge cuts to other public services that families rely on heavily.
“We know schools are already picking up the pieces and we fear there is worse to come.
“NAHT is asking the government for more honesty about where the cuts will fall, and to listen to our ideas for alternative solutions to problems in education.
“Cuts in funding hit disadvantaged families the hardest, but there is cash in the system to help out.
“We would like the government to adopt our proposals for data-sharing between government departments. This could ease the burden of workload on schools who are having to find other ways to make sure poorer children are not missing out.”
Mr Draper took up his post at the beginning of this month and will serve until next May, when he will return to Water Hall Primary.
He said teachers who want to pass on their views can contact him through the headquarters of the NAHT, which has 28,000 members, including head teachers, deputies, assistant head teachers, bursars and school business managers.