Post People: Headteacher of Britain’s Biggest Primary School
Gascoigne Primary headteacher Bob Garton, 62, tells Rebecca Cushway what it’s like to be the boss of Britain’s biggest primary school – and appear on TV
“When I was first approached about making Britain’s Biggest Primary School, I was very sceptical. But after speaking with the producer, I found the company to be ethically sound and I trusted them to make a good programme – although people told me that I was terribly brave.
“The crew spent six weeks at the school, getting to know the staff and children, before filming for six months. They became part of the school and we miss them but they pop in occasionally to see us.
“The children and staff enjoyed the experience and only 12 pupils opted not to be filmed for the show.
“One of my highlights was seeing how well the children came across. They were real stars and a credit to the school and to Barking and Dagenham. The show also gave a positive view of the area which was my aim.
“Plus, it was great for the children to see how a film crew works. Two of the producers were female so it was good for our girls to see women in these roles.
“We received really positive feedback about the programme and there will be a Christmas special which we look forward to seeing.
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“I became a teacher in my mid-twenties, 38 years ago, and have never looked back. I’ve been the headteacher for 18 years now and the school has changed beyond recognition since I took charge.
“It has expanded enormously, both physically and demographically. We have almost 1,200 pupils and around 60 languages are spoken. There are even plans to expand the school further.
“To manage over 1,000 children we need to put careful processes in place. For example, we have to stagger breaks, lunch times and assemblies.
“As a headteacher, a key message that I try to instill in our pupils is that they should never give up on education. If they don’t succeed at first, they should keep trying. I am proof of this as I left school at 15 with no qualifications.
“I did 101 jobs including working as a bricklaying apprentice and as a hospital porter had to go to night school when I decided to become a teacher.
“After 25 years of being a headteacher, with many career highlights, I feel the time is right to retire. I look forward to pursuing my many interests – especially as I have worked since I was 15.”