Headteacher St Stephens

Talking heads: An interview with Michael Schumm from St Stephen’s CE Primary School

One of the primary schools in West London that truly stands out is Ofsted outstanding rated St Stephen’s CE Primary School, led by headteacher Michael Schumm.

We took the opportunity to talk to Michael about the school, his background and how he’s shaped St Stephen’s over the past 18 years as headteacher.

About Michael Schumm

If there’s a theatrical, showbiz quality to Michael Schumm, headteacher of St Stephen’s CE Primary School in Shepherd’s Bush, it’s easily explained. 

He began his working life as an actor in Middlesbrough after going to drama college… in fact, he didn’t enter teaching until he was in his early 30s. 

In his performing days, he visited numerous schools in the North East, often dressed as a clown, helping to introduce youngsters to the fun of drama. 

“But when I reached 31 or 32, I asked myself: ‘What am I doing with my life?’ I had a friend who was a teacher, and she recommended it. But as I’d done drama college in the 1980s, I didn’t have a degree,” he says. 

All the work he’d already done in schools counted in his favour, allowing Michael to condense a four-year degree into two years. 

Supported by his wife, Rachel, he immersed himself in practical learning in schools in Kennington and the Isle of Dogs before qualifying and taking up his first teaching appointment in Hackney. 

Joining St Stephen’s CE Primary School

He joined St Stephen’s as a teacher in 2001, becoming the headteacher in 2004. He’d almost certainly have moved on to a bigger school before now, but as St Stephen’s was able to expand, he opted to stay put and steered the school towards a doubling in size, including major building works on the site. 

Within a year of starting his headship, the school was out of special measures and well on its way to gaining its current Ofsted-acclaimed status as an outstanding provider of education, with more applications each year than there are places. 

School values

Religion is a key pillar at a school with the motto ‘Through God We Achieve’. “I can say quite truthfully that God is at the centre of our school,” he adds. “We’ve got fantastic links with St Stephen’s church, and with Denis [Adide], the new vicar who’s now been here two years, and we’ve built the school’s ethos on strong Christian values… not just hanging a few crosses in the classroom!” 

As well as the strong Friends of St Stephen’s (FOSS) group, there is also a prayer group at the school, established by parents. FOSS’s activities are always innovative and eye-catching, with one brave band of children and parents even climbing Snowdon! 

“They really are amazing,” says Michael, a father-of-three. “They do a phenomenal job fundraising.” FOSS organises country culture evenings – this year it’s All Things French, while past events have included a Hispanic day – which involve the whole school. 

St Stephens CE Primary School

Connections with the arts

Michael’s acting background meant St Stephen’s was a natural fit for linking up with children’s author and TV personality David Walliams in a 90-minute Channel 4 documentary Chitty Flies Again, screened last year. It was a bid to build a real-life flying Chitty Chitty Bang Bang to mark the 50th anniversary of the iconic musical. 

A class of eight-year-olds from the school helped the actor explore every aspect of the film, including the terrifying child-catcher scene! 

At the heart of W12

Having a school in the heart of W12, an area that has regenerated dramatically in recent years means that there have been tie-ups with Westfield mall, although the school’s main links are closer to home… Shepherds Bush Market. 

“As an area, Shepherds Bush has changed since I came here in 2001,” says Michael. “The school really does reflect the community, and an ever-changing Shepherds Bush. I love the area, I love the children, I love the community.” 

In lockdown, the school’s summer fair was staged in the open space of the market. “It was a great feeling to do that. We’ve got really good links with the market and we’ll often use their space on a Saturday or Sunday.” 

Providing a stellar education

Michael says he has supportive staff, and that the school has a good record for retaining staff.

St Stephen’s sets great store by boosting literacy among pupils via a read/writing programme, and also has a busy and well-used library of its own. 

“We’re fortunate to have a library and children visit it regularly and take books out, and I think that’s essential. The books in the library are incredibly diverse and are chosen to reflect the diversity of children in the school,” he says. “It’s a very language-rich curriculum that we have, pushing children forward.” 

School trips and extracurricular activites at Stephen’s CE Primary School

School trips came back when school returned last September, with Years 4 and 5 recently enjoying expeditions to Buckinghamshire. 

Meanwhile, children enjoy performing plays and nativities in the hall… something Michael himself liked in his own schooldays, and which paved the way to his earlier career. It can be useful having an actor at the helm!

Moving to West London

West London appeals to families for a number of reasons; together with access to a choice of green spaces, beautiful homes and a strong local community, the excellent schools across the area is often a deciding factor for those making a move to Shepherd’s Bush, Hammersmith or Chiswick.

If you’re moving to West London and would like to explore the properties available for sale or let that are within the catchment of your desired school, please do get in touch with Horton and Garton to talk about your requirements.