SO what is the secret to becoming a great teacher?

According to Andy Hodgkinson, 43, headteacher at Sweyne Park School, Rayleigh, the best ones are those who manage to maintain their energy and passion for the job.

Like in any career, you start off full of hunger and bursting with ideas, but without the know-how you often need to control large classrooms full of children with very different educational needs.

Those tricks of the trade to bring out the best in pupils eventually come as second nature – but it is unquestionably a career with a steep learning curve.

Andy admits: “At the time, I was very young to become a headteacher, but increasingly we are seeing people take up leadership roles at a younger age.

“It was a daunting task because it is a job that comes with huge responsibility and I did not want to do anything silly, or on a whim, or make a mess of things.

“You can ruin a reputation far quicker than it takes to build one.”

After taking on the school’s top job in 2006 – still in his mid thirties – Andy grew into the job.

Recently he was awarded a Silver Pearson Teaching Award in the category of Headteacher of the Year in a Secondary School – and it’s not hard to see why.

He still teaches his own language classes, he is on duty every day and refuses to hide away in an office. He said: “The award was a victory for the whole school, not me. It is a cliche, but it really is true.

“I have fantastic kids, parents and staff to work with. They are the ultimate resources to a school’s success.

“We also have fantastic facilities and resources, of which of course I’d likemore, but we try to be a part of the community and invite other groups to use the school.”

Away from school, Andy has a wife and two children – Tom, aged nine, and Lucy, 11 – and he puts his zest for work down to wanting to be a good dad.

He added: “My life is really simple, I have wonderful kids and a lovely wife.

“I protect time with them as I want to play sport with my son and go to dance events with my daughter. I started cycling so I could continue to play sport with Tom and I’m fitter now than I was at uni.

“If I go out for an early morning ride then I can do my big thinking about school things when I’m out – and I’ve still got time for my family.”

Education is a fast-moving world these days, though, and he admits the life of a headteacher would not suit everyone.

Andy added: “If you do not see change as a positive thing, then it can be very difficult.

“That’s where the staff come in as well.

“Everyone has to move and change as a team and pull in the same direction – that’s what we have at Sweyne Park.”

Andy returned to being Mr Hodgkinson today when the school year began and a new group of pupils started their Sweyne Park journey.

The new intake, and all returning pupils, are in good hands.

They have a driven head who, just to make sure he wasn’t standing still for too long, has just completed an MBA to add to his headteacher award.

Andy now goes forward to the national finals, which will be televised on BBC2 in October.