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The Key CEO Fergal Roche Talks About the People Who Influenced His Life and Career

The CEO, author and former head introduces us to those who left a lasting impact on him

  • The Key CEO Fergal Roche Talks About the People Who Influenced His Life and Career

Sister Rita

Sister Rita belonged to the Sisters of Mercy, but you’d never have guessed, as she was so demanding. She taught me to read in under a year when I was four.

She got us excited about reading and I remember sitting at her feet while she thrilled us with Chicken Licken. Then it was forming letters and copying shapes. The class was huge, but my memory is of order and control at all times. How the world goes full circle.

Terry Brooks

My Latin teacher
Terry taught me Latin for three years. It was tiring. From the moment you entered the room, it was hard work. Not a second was wasted. Leading from the front, he had eyes everywhere. You were on task, or else.

Perversely, to many people’s thinking, we enjoyed the challenge and were proud of mastering something we knew was supposed to be difficult.

Dr Mike Russell

I probably learnt more from Mike than any other teacher at Exeter University. He taught us practical criticism, which meant the ability to analyse any text. Every week of the whole degree we had to turn in an analysis of whatever the latest assignment was.

Ever since, I have never been scared of getting my head around any piece of text. Mike, brilliantly clever, had the humility to get down on our level and make us believe that we could understand complexity. I owe him a lot.

Finola Roche

My mother
My mother gave me drive. She had TB when she was 11 and her father died when she was 14. Her widowed mother had nine children of her own and a number of ‘country cousins’ (this was pre-war Ireland) who needed housing, so Mum didn’t get a lot of attention growing up.

In spite of that, she was one of the first people in her girls’ school to study medicine and she became a consultant anaesthetist. ‘You can do it if you put your mind to it’ is the message that streams from her into the family, through the generations below her.

Alex Cheatle

Former colleague
Alex is the founder and CEO of Ten Group, which housed The Key when we were first set up as a government pilot scheme ten years ago. The banks crashed and our money was withdrawn.

If it hadn’t been for his energy and belief, I would have struggled to get the organisation through the difficult years. To him, every problem has a solution; you just need to work harder to find it.

Cathy Hewitt

Head of school
Cathy Hewitt, now head of school at a primary in Peckham, speaks evangelically about the mission they are on to rescue children and give them a future. She is rigorous about giving all children the knowledge and cultural ‘capital’ they require. I so admire teachers like Cathy, who are driven and focused.

David Sammels

Dave runs a primary school in Plymouth. He went to one of the two schools it now comprises. He always makes me remember what we are all about in our mission to support leadership in schools.

He brought a party of children (called ‘Chofsted’ – children’s Ofsted) to our offices, more than half of whom had never been out of Plymouth. He has no limit to what he thinks children can do and is hugely inspiring.

Fergal Roche is the CEO of The Key. His book, Mining for Gold: Stories of Effective Teachers (£14, John Catt Educational Ltd), is now on sale. Follow him on Twitter at @rochefergal.

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