The Portsmouth secondary school where seven teachers are former pupils

A CITY school has revealed one of the secrets of its success – ‘grow your own’ teachers.

Friday, 12th July 2019, 11:20 am
Updated Monday, 15th July 2019, 6:05 pm

St Edmund’s Catholic School currently has seven teachers and three support staff as part of its team.

The school is a flagship for Portsmouth City Council’s Grow Your Own Campaign – an initiative to attract more people into teaching and to work in local schools.

As part of the initiative, the ten members of staff have posters proudly displayed around the school.

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St Edmund's Catholic School in Portsmouth, has seven teachers and three support staff at the school which are ex pupils. (back l-r) Adam Poxton, head of PE, Jason Brown, head of Year 11, Joe Were, head of English and Jackie Robinson, data and assessment manager, with (front l-r) Jovanna Tuffnell, English teacher, Chris Nicol, R.E teacher and Leon Miller, teaching assistant. Three additional members of staff are not in the photograph due to absence or teaching commitments. Picture: Sarah Standing (110719-)

Assistant head teacher and Language teacher, Moira Howarth, taught five of the students who now teach at the school.

Moira said: ‘We are really proud to welcome these students back as teachers. St Edmund’s is very much a family school and seeing people return to the school is like welcoming back a member of the family. It’s brilliant to see these former pupils develop from the children we saw at school into the fantastic teachers they have become.’


Head of PE, Adam Poxton, was a pupil from 1999 to 2004 and has taught at the school for the last 10 years.

Joe Were, head of English, when he was a pupil at the school.

Adam said: ‘It was a little strange when I first came back as a lot of my old teachers were still here and I found myself calling them sir. They would sometimes remind me of what I was like in lessons. I’m St Edmund's through and through.’

Head of Year 11, Jason Brown, was in the same tutor group as Adam.

‘When I first arrived we didn’t recognise each other. What’s strange for me is that some of the teachers who taught me are now part of my tutor team,’ he explained.

Head of English, Joe Were, who left in 2000, added: ‘The school is like an extended family. Everyone knows someone who has either been to the school or works here. I’ve been to other schools across the region but there is something special about St Edmund’s.’

Leon Miller, teaching assistant, who left St Edmund's in 2012.

For English teacher, Jovanna Tuffnell, returning to the school has been instrumental in reigniting her career.

Jovanna said: ‘I left teaching for two years. After four years in the profession I’d become disillusioned and was often spending my time dealing with behaviour issues. Returning to St Edmund’s has reignited my passion for the job. The first day I walked in I felt comfortable and at home. Even the smell of the exam hall was the same.’

The most recent pupil to leave the school and return as a member of staff is teaching assistant, Leon Miller.

Leon, who left in 2012, said: ‘I’m the closest to the pupils age and so I think this helps me to be able to relate to the kids. Adam, Joe and Chris used to teach me. The school has improved a lot since I was here, particularly the behaviour.’

Jason Brown, head of year 11, when he was a pupil at the school.

The greatest changes have been witnessed by RE teacher, Chris Nicol, who attended the school between 1969 and 1973.

‘At that time you were given the cane for misbehaving and we all used to sit at the old style exam desks. Whilst the main building is the same, where the sports hall is now located used to be the playground,’ said Chris.


One thing which has changed since many of the teachers returned to the school is its academic performance. In 2011 it was judged inadequate by Ofsted and risked being placed into special measures. Now rated outstanding, it has been the city's top performing state school for the last two years and ranked in the top five per cent nationally.

Head of English, Joe Were, commented: ‘ Having been here as children, St Edmund’s blood runs through us. It’s like football club who like to bring through their own youngsters – they will always have more of an affinity than someone transferring from elsewhere. Everyone has a passion for St Edmund’s which means we’re willing to go the extra mile to ensure the pupils reach their potential.’

Jovanna added: ‘Growing up in the same community we’re able to empathise with what children are experiencing here at school.’

Adam Poxton, head of PE, when he was a pupil at the school.
Jovanna Tuffnell, English teacher, when she was a pupil at the school.
Chris Nicol, R.E teacher, in a poster for the school's Grow Your Own initiative.