Alumnus of the Month: April 2022
Tim Dracup is our Verulam School April 2022 Alumnus of the Month. Tim left Verulam School in 1977 and is now retired
Please tell us a little about yourself – where do you work and how did you get into this role?
I arrived at what was then St Albans Grammar School for Boys in 1970, the first in my family to pass the 11+. On leaving what had by then become Verulam School, I headed to the University of East Anglia to study English Literature, followed by a PGCE equipping me to teach secondary English.
But I ended up in Whitehall, a civil servant at what was then the Department of Education and Science. I gradually worked my way up the hierarchy, but hit the buffers in 2010, so took early retirement. I became a part-time consultant and househusband, so that my wife could develop her own career before we retired together and lived happily ever after.
Sadly she developed breast cancer and died in 2017 and, since then, I have been striving to entertain the possibility that the best years of my life may still lie ahead! I have clung on to that hope through the subsequent death of both of my parents, some mental health issues and the blight of Covid lockdowns.
What are some of your proudest achievements since leaving Verulam School?
Back in 1996, I applied for a role as team leader responsible for a miscellaneous bunch of education policy issues that no-one cared about. One was support for able learners. During the Blair years this emerged as a priority and I found myself establishing and then leading England’s National Gifted and Talented Education Unit.
When I was working as a consultant, the University of Oxford commissioned me to write them a review of effective practice in widening participation and fair access.
What advice would you give someone looking to follow a similar career path?
Go to university if you possibly can, to study a subject you enjoy, rather than one that will make you more employable. Seize every opportunity to broaden your range of interests, pursuits and skills.
After you’ve paid off your overdraft and travelled the world, find a job you enjoy -one that will earn you enough money that you can dedicate yourself to life, love and the pursuit of happiness.
Be diligent, but work to live rather than living to work. Beware the Peter Principle!
How have your experiences at Verulam School contributed to your life and successes since leaving school?
The teachers I remember most fondly were those who awoke in me a lifelong love of books and literature. John Mole, in particular, was inspirational.
I was rather less fond of the PE staff, especially those who cultivated a sadistic streak. I suppose one could argue that playing rugby in sub-zero temperatures does toughen one up and develops one’s resilience!
What House were you in at Verulam School and can you describe one of your fondest memories?
I was in Jennings. I arrived with a second-hand rugby shirt that was a fetching shade of mauve after many washes, instead of the regulation purple.
In an effort to escape the joys of rugby I became rather good at cross-country, enjoying the inter-house competitions and later running for the School.
I had lots and lots of bright ginger hair and, to give them credit, the staff never ordered me to get it cut, even turning a blind eye when I turned up to the Upper Sixth with an apology for a beard.
I managed to get through my entire school career without a single detention. Almost miraculously, I once endured a double period of geography taught by detention-happy legend Mr Alexander (aka ‘Bullet’) without him discovering that I had forgotten my text book.
I’m still trying to realise the happiest years of my life!
I try to keep fit through a mixture of walking, running, pilates and weight-training – and I’m working my way steadily round the South-West Coast Path.
I’ve appointed myself unofficial Dracup family historian and love researching the lives of earlier Dracups, placing them in their proper social and historical context.
I write a fair bit, on these and other subjects, publishing everything on my ‘Eponymous’ blog.
We love hearing what our alumni have been doing since leaving Verulam School. Each month, we are inviting a member of our alumni community to share their story of life after Verulam. If you’re and alumnus who would like to take part, or you’d like to volunteer an alumnus that you know, then please drop us an email.