I grew up in Rochester, Kent, where I was educated at the King’s School. My early career was in film and television. I was trained by the BBC’s Wood Norton Engineering Centre as a film sound recordist and worked mainly in the dubbing theatres at Ealing Film Studios and the BBC Television Centre. For some years, this professional work ran parallel with a keen amateur interest in choirs, organ playing and organ building which dated from schooldays where the combined efforts of one Dr Richard Beeching and daily exposure to Rochester Cathedral saw my primary loyalties switch from the railways to cathedral music. A memorable choir trip was the final catalyst for a career change to teaching. I trained as a middle school music teacher at Christ Church College Canterbury, completing a University of London BEd, studying organ under Allan Wicks to obtain the Licentiateship of Trinity College of Music and directing the Canterbury Renaissance Consort.
Durning a seventeen year career in schools, I taught mainly the 9 – 13 age group in both maintained and independent schools, picking up what were to become later research interests along the way. A period as head of geography at a cathedral choir school allowed me to combine my interests in choirs and music with outdoor education and the environment, which led eventually to a PhD in the philosophy of values in environmental education. During the 1990s, I won the Worldwide Fund for Nature Curriculum Management Award for my work in creating and directing the Sustainable Millenium Project and its associated FutureWorld courses. I have been involved in other environmental education consultency, including a period during the 1990s as consultant to the Flat Holm Project where I ran many course for children on sustainable development.
It was whilst teaching in a maintained primary school that I first became interested in boys’ behaviour, completing an MPhil in the relationship between peer attachments and boys’ disengagement from schooling. Later, funded action research work in the mid 90s when boys’ underachievement was becoming an issue combined with this to underpin my ongoing interest in boys’ spirituality, which was the somewhat convoluted route into the boys and singing project.
My career in higher education began with a period of PhD completion and work for UWE Bristol as a Visiting Lecturer and Associate Tutor for the Open University. On becoming a senior lecturer at UWE, I assumed the leadership of primary science before becoming programme leader for the undergraduate education studies degree. I became a principal lecturer on assuming programme leadership of the professional doctorate in education. During this period I also created a “3+1” QTS award (BA hons with PGCE) in English and the Arts. This award was underpinned by my interest in comparative pedagogies for the 9 – 13 age group. My breadth of experience across maintained and independent schools, including Steiner schools, has led to an ongoing concern with specialist and generalist teaching and the role of subject knowledge. During my final years at UWE I became a Reader in Education and was awarded an AHRC research fellowship for post-doctoral research entitle Young Masculinity and Vocal Performance.
In 2007 I left Bristol for a move North to Edge Hill University where I became Head of Research in the Faculty of Education. I received a second, larger AHRC grant to work with the National Youth Choirs of Great Britain, with Professor David Howard of the University of York as co-investigator. I was awarded a personal chair for my work on boys and singing in 2008. During my time as Head of Research I managed a number of projects and established the Centre for Learner identity Studies. A further grant from Edge Hill’s Research Excellence Framework Development Fund supported a project initially entitled Phonatory Patterns in Chorister and non-Chorister boys, out of which developed the 1000 Boys Voices research. I retired from my position at Edge Hill in 2013, having overseen a healthy growth in the Faculty team I managed to a complement of three professors, two readers, three senior research fellows and two research assistants.