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ASDAN interviews new trustee, Dean Smart

Dean Smart joins ASDAN this year as one of three new trustees, bringing a wealth of experience and knowledge. We interviewed Dean to learn more about his professional background, the values that guide him and the expertise he brings to our organisation.  

Tell us about your professional background and career interests 

Older, Caucasian male with glasses on smiling at the screen in an online interview

“I usually describe myself to people as an escaped teacher, though not entirely accurate as I'm still teaching teachers. I'm predominantly a history teacher. I trained in Bristol but started my career on the other side of the country in a very high performing school. I then began working in inner-city education and was much happier.

At St. George School (now City Academy), I led history and teacher education. There was a diverse student body and a lot of young people in quite challenging circumstances, but lovely, bouncy and energetic, all the same. It was great, no two days were the same and you could make quite a difference. 

I was also engaging with teacher education at the University of the West of England (UWE), where I contributed to a local authority project. Subsequently, I joined UWE, where I have spent the last couple of decades supervising doctoral students – I do a bit of consultancy, research, writing and a bit of looking decorative. 

While I'm very privileged to work with people aspiring to change the world, I do miss working directly with children. Adolescents are funny, energised and eager to make a difference. My teacher training students feel that way too.” 

How would you describe your values? 

“I think social justice drives what I do – giving people fair opportunities to use their talents, which is what ASDAN is all about.   

My focus is on working with student teachers who will make the world a better place. Teachers studying to improve equality in various aspects, such as gender, poverty, wealth and systems. “Social justice” is a neat little phrase that lumps all that together.” 

There's a synchronicity between my voluntary roles, including 30 years of school governorship and being a Quaker trustee for almost a decade, and the things people very kindly pay me to do. Doing what I feel is right is important to me, which probably sounds sanctimonious! Everyone, on a small scale, can make a difference... and sometimes they can make a bigger difference than you expect.” 

Tell us about a job or project that's impacted you in some way 

“A fairly defining moment broadened my perspective on inclusion. My doctoral research was around representations of visible ethnic minorities. Students at St. George School would ask, “Where are we?” in response to their textbooks, “Where are the people of difference?” and “Where are the people who are not white?” This made me more interested in inclusion and sharing greater diversity through the untold aspects of British history.  

How would you summarise your expertise?  

I'm passionate about curriculum development, with a background in English and humanities. I've worked on vocational courses with young people who were very mixed in terms of performance, attitude and outlook. They were disengaged from regular curriculum and so over time, I’ve become interested in what works to make a balanced, useful curriculum and something which gives people the opportunity to flourish.  

I’m also interested in assessment. My master’s degree was about the difference between, or at least the dissertation between, policy and practice. I think my expertise can be summarised as reasonably interesting, creative and engaging approaches to pedagogy – i.e. ways of doing it that make it interesting and fun and drop a little hook into the pool to try and catch the curiosity, interest and creativity of young people.” 

What motivates you and your career?  

“It sounds very cheesy, but service. I'm a Quaker and I like the idea that no matter your religious belief, to try and make the world better and do social good is no bad thing. I've probably got my parents and grandparents to thank for valuing integrity, hard work and not wasting time, and trying to be active, engaged and doing what you can in the community.  

What attracted you to the role of ASDAN trustee? 

“Having taught for several decades, I think I can give a perspective which might not always be right but might help in the mix of perspectives. I think I've got reasonably good charitable trust experience. I think I'm pretty grounded and I value people.  

I think it's very important that organisations are humane and try to live their values. I think that's a big thing for ASDAN and also for me.” 

What do you feel you’ll bring to the role? 

“Having worked in inner-city education, I am very aware of things like accessibility, inclusion and bridging the gap in education. I get frustrated as policy has become so much about systems, not people. I believe we need to consider individual needs, and not just produce stuff for the economy. 

There is value in thinking about the impact of education – appreciating the arts and having a well-rounded understanding of how others may feel about what they do, what they say and how they behave. 

What are you looking forward to as an ASDAN trustee?  

“I’m excited for two things – learning and contributing. Interacting with others provides opportunities for reflection and new perspectives. The second is contributing, I hope to be asked to do things which are useful (and told if they’re not). I think learning helps you muse out loud and be of value.” 

Find out more about ASDAN's trustees.