Cambridge United fan Andrew Stephen releases book about his life in education
By Dave Phillips
Rain or shine, you’ll find him on the terraces of the Abbey Stadium, supporting his beloved Cambridge United. Andrew Stephen is a lifelong supporter of the U’s and is well-known to his fellow fans as the editor of the Amber News fanzine, but few of them know he is also the author of a best-selling book about his life in education.
Cambridge-born Andrew, 70, has been involved in teaching in all but the first four years of his life and he shares those experiences in his book, Reading, Writing and Redemption – an autobiography that covers his schooldays as a pupil as well as a teacher.
It’s a book that makes plain his love of his profession – and he admits he was inspired to teach more than 60 years ago in Cambridge, by a teacher named John Selwyn Hulloch at St Phillip’s Junior School, on Ross Street.
“Mr Hulloch loved being a teacher,” said Andrew. “I used to see him slowly cycling along Fairfax Road very early in the morning and riding home in semi-darkness. He had a large basket on the front supporting a faint light and containing a huge pile of books.
“He wore brightly-coloured jumpers and talked with enthusiasm and with an unexpected gentleness. Sometimes he walked around the school in his cycle clips. We never made fun of him though. He cared and we knew it. Even young children are much more aware than most people give them credit for.
“Ever encouraging, he got me to join I-Spy and the RSPB, among other things. He taught me lessons I’d remember for the rest of my life, because he was the inspiration for the teacher I would eventually become.”
As the son of an RAF serviceman, Andrew attended several other schools as his family moved to various bases across England and Germany. When his father was stationed at RAF Marham in Norfolk, he attended a school in King’s Lynn from which he was eventually expelled, wrongly accused by the headmaster of an act of vandalism that he didn’t commit.
Incredibly, 50 years later, he returned to that very same school as a respected governor and trustee. That explains the “Redemption” part of the title of this gripping book. But I don't want to spoil the plot - you can read the full story in the book.
Between expulsion and redemption, Andrew became a trainee teacher, passed his Masters degree, became an English teacher and eventually Head of English at a succession of state comprehensive schools. But he never forgot the city of his birth and returned to Cambridge as often as possible to visit his family – and of course support United.
These days he lives near Downham Market with his wife, Liz. Reading, Writing and Redemption is his first outing as an author, but it doesn’t show. It is a candid canter through our ever-changing educational system from the late 1950s through to the present day and Andrew doesn’t pull any punches when he details the negative impact of bungling politicians and their unwanted interference in our schools. It’s a mirror on 60-odd years of our social history.
Yet it is all written with an irrepressible humour of a man who admits that he always saw teaching an acting and spent his entire career wondering when the mask would slip. Luckily it never did.
Reading, Writing and Redemption has been described as the best book about schooldays since Harry Potter and it’s easy to see why. But in Andrew’s case, the magic is real. Mr Hulloch would have been proud.
Reading, Writing and Redemption is published on Amazon and is available in paperback, hardback and kindle (e-book) formats.