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Alumni > Alumni News > Alumni Interview - Mark Cratchley

Alumni Interview - Mark Cratchley

Imi Freissner-Day, a member of our Sixth Form Development & Alumni Committee, was in conversation with PGS alumnus Mark Cratchley shortly before he finished his teaching role at Pate's in July 2021.
Can you guess what he teaches?
Can you guess what he teaches?

Mark was a student at Pate’s from 1985-1992. He taught English at Pate’s from September 2019 and from September 2021 took up an English teaching position at Cheltenham Bournside School & Sixth Form Centre.

Imi: I wanted to start by thanking you for taking the time for me to interview you today and sharing your experiences with us.

You were a student between 1985-1992.  How do you remember your time and what sort of student were you?

Mark: It was an unusual time because my first year here was at Cheltenham Grammar School, which was an all boys’ school and then in my second year, the boys’ school and the girls' school merged. It was then split onto two sites.

There were almost two starts. Going up to secondary school in the first year we were a reduced number so that we could then combine with the girls the following year and we were put into two brand new houses, so we didn’t really feel part of the old boys' school. I think it was different at the girls’ school, they were put into existing houses. It wasn’t until the second year when everything was combined that it felt more cohesive and being on two sites was also quite strange and made the Lower School and the Upper School feel very divided, but… I loved it, I really enjoyed it, it was great.

What sort of student was I? Probably up until about 4th / 5th year,  I was all right and actually, I spent a lot of my Year 5 (which is Year 10 now) ill with glandular fever, so I was absent for months at a time.  I still went ahead and did my GCSEs but after that it was all a bit disorientating.

Imi: During your time there was a moat around the school that seem to cause both distractions and fun, can you tell me more about it….

Mark: Yes (Laughing)…whose idea it was to put a moat in a school I have no idea, it seems absolutely bonkers but…!

As the school is now, we had the central quad in the middle and around the edge of the quad right up to the windows, was a moat that went around the outside of the building as well. The majority of the rooms around the quad itself were science labs, so more often than not you would be sitting in the science lab when you would hear an almighty splash and it was customary for a great cheer to go up. It was invariably a first year with a huge bag on their back, waist or knee deep!  In the Winter Term the moat froze over and there would be various challenges around the outside of the school. There was quite a large area where the moat was probably the size of a classroom, so people would challenge each other to see how far they could go or how close to the side of the school they could get from the edge and that was done with various degrees of success as well (laughing).

Imi: I am sure you were an angelic pupil at Pate’s but it would be great if you could share your slight fall from grace during French….

Which one!!  They were mostly in my A level years.  I loved French, I love the subject and I loved doing the topics that we would do.  We were introduced to French literature, some Maupassant, and also French cinema, which is fantastic.   My downfall was the location!

As I said earlier, we were on split sites and I would invariably be tempted to stop off en route for a coffee at the coffee shop in Coronation Square, or stay here at the other site and just not go basically, especially if it was raining. I wasn't very motivated to traipse all the way down there!

But I did get caught out. I was rehearsing for the school play after lessons and I had missed French that day. I was performing with a friend, who was also guilty of often bunking off French lessons and we were literally caught in the spotlight. As we finished performing this little scene, we realised the French teacher was standing at the back and he just gave us a slow clap.  After that we were put on academic report!

Imi: I have every sympathy.  My career in French was incredibly short lived!

You chose a career as a teacher; what was it that led you to teach and was this interest fostered during your time at Pate’s?

Mark: I think the spark was always here. In the Sixth Form I was involved in things like House Drama over with the Lower School and I would run various workshops in Activities Week. Being a Theatre Studies student, we did drama type projects, but it wasn't until much later really, about ten or fifteen years later, that I fell in love with teaching by accident.  Initially it was a ticket to ride, literally.  

I had been travelling for about three or four months when I came back to England and thought ‘How can I do more?’ and getting a TEFL certificate seemed to be the best way to do it. So I studied for the TEFL certificate and then went out to work abroad, initially in Thailand and then in Japan. I just fell in love with teaching and so I came back to England in 2012 and continued working in the English education system. It is something in me, but it really took me by surprise that I enjoyed doing it so much. 

Imi: It is very often said that music and teachers help to shape our formative years. I notice some of your interests included your love for music and playing in a band.  Which rock legend inspired you the most and why?

Mark: The band that we had at school - we were called 'Cavalcade of Perversions' - used to listen to lots of different music that was going on at the time. Obviously there was a bit of Nirvana, Pixies, Clash and The Doors as well, but there wasn't just one influence within the band, there were various influences that we pulled together. Prince, Bowie and Dylan are the big hitters that have remained constant through to today.

The teacher? That would actually be a pair of teachers, Mr. Beal and Mr. Kavanagh.They were both English and Theatre Studies teachers. Mr. Beal probably more so, simply because I had over half of my A level lessons in the last year with him, because Mrs. Lane was on maternity leave and he took over her lessons. The two of them brought out my love of theatre and drama and really fostered it. They encouraged me to develop wider reading habits and to not just stick to a particular genre.  In doing so and being experimental in my reading habits, they ignited a real spark.

Imi: The Pate’s motto is ‘That which is hidden shall be revealed’.  Did this hold true then and could the same be said of today?

Mark: Yes, I think so. As I was just saying about Mr. Beal and Mr. Kavanagh, I think it was their attitude, to try and bring things out that weren’t necessarily obvious that brings out the best in people and reveals those hidden talents. 

I remember being a pupil and having the feelings of… ‘Well I actually like this and I’m quite good at this’ or ‘This is something that I never considered doing but I'm really enjoying it’ and as a student it is great. As a teacher it is always a joy to see it and foster it. So it is definitely true, then and now.

Imi: Do you feel that the teachers in the 1980s are very different to the current teachers today or do they share common traits?

Mark: (Laughing) I don’t know, I think without slipping into stereotypes that we might see in films or on television, it’s quite difficult to say. There was definitely a different attitude before and I do think we were more mischievous at school when I was a pupil. There doesn’t seem to be the same sense of mischief or practical jokes now. It is a little bit more serious.

Imi: How to do you feel the school has changed overall since your time as a student?

Mark: Well, I came back and did my training here and I have obviously been teaching here for a few years. It did feel like coming home, it was a very similar atmosphere.  Maybe that has changed a little bit now.

Imi: What advice would you give the young you if you could travel back in time and would you have listened to you?

Mark: Probably not. I don’t think I would have listened to me at all, but I would say, ‘Read more and travel more’.

Imi: The Pate’s Alumni has been a success story for the school over many years. What does it mean to you to be part of this and to be part of the staff alumni?

Mark: It is important. It is quite comforting and reassuring and it’s something you can keep coming back to. Over the last five years there have been various school reunions and we’ve got in touch and reconnected with old friends and made new friends too. I am still in touch with the majority of my close friends from my time here. It is a special place and there is definitely a very strong sense of community that lasts for a very long time. It’s good to feel part of that.

Imi: The last 18 months for the students has been a troubling and challenging time with Covid.  Are there any words of wisdom you would like to share?

Mark: ‘Do what you can.’ I think this goes for teachers as well. It’s a general one, this idea of not putting yourself under too much pressure and not worrying too much if things don’t get done. Without saying or encouraging apathy or procrastination, it’s more of a case of realising your limits and expectations and perhaps being more realistic in those.

Imi: You were in Gloucester house, so I feel that on behalf of York house, which I am in, that I have to ask…. if you weren’t a glorious green, which house would you chose?

Mark: This was the question I struggled with most of all (laughing). I had and have, lots of friends in all three of the other houses, so I think really the only one I could conceivably cheat on Gloucester with, would be Pembroke. Given they weren’t around when I was here, I don’t feel that it would be too disloyal to Gloucester.

Imi: Well on that note I think we should move swiftly on! And so finally, there are many people you will be leaving behind that will be very sad to see you go.  What will you miss the most about Pate’s?

Mark: It’s the people. It is really disappointing that I can’t be here to see my form group go all the way through to Year 11. I would have like to have seen my Year 12 group to the end of their exams. Obviously, I am very excited to be moving on to the new school but I am going to miss the people, the camaraderie and my colleagues. It is a very friendly, motivating and nice place to work. I will miss that.

Imi: It is true to say that we will miss you and so on behalf of the Development & Alumni Committee, Pate’s students, staff and parents, I want to thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and insights and we wish you all the very best for the future.


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