I caught up with writer and teacher Peter Scholes who has written a series of children's books, play and scripts, poems, short stories and educational resources.
Tell me about yourself
My name is Peter Scholes and I hail from Carlisle in Cumbria. I am 48 years old and currently live and teach in Lancashire. I live with my seven year old daughter, Jessica.
I have been a teacher for 21 years now and, throughout this time, I have taught in Bedfordshire, Yorkshire and Lancashire. I am slowly but surely working my way back up to Carlisle and home!
Before I decided to join the teaching profession, I had a whole host of jobs ranging from factory and office work to setting up my own sandwich delivery business with a friend (S.and.W.Iches).
I am a huge fan of Carlisle United Football Club (as are most of my family and friends) and we all travel the length of breadth of the country to support them through thick (not much of that) and thin (plenty of that).
I love to write when I have the time to do so. I am currently writing my fourth novel (One Last Waltz) to go alongside a series of children's books, play and scripts, poems, short stories and educational resources.
How and why did you choose a career in teaching and why primary?
Back in 2001, I was working as a Civil Servant in London having been posted there from Carlisle during the Food and Mouth Disease outbreak at the time of the century. The work was tedious and mind-numbing and, if it wasn't for the social life outside work, I have no doubt that I would have fallen into a work-induced coma! That said, the extra wage did give me the opportunity to save and the incentive to look for a new career. My sister and many friends were teachers at that time and I thought it would be something I could turn my hand to as well. I trained as a primary school teacher in Bedfordshire and I have been working in schools ever since. Working in high/secondary schools was never a draw for me. The thought of being stuck in a small room with 30 angst-ridden teens did not appeal to me one bit. I remembered myself at that age and that soon put me off. Little people it was instead. No regrets there at all.
What is your favourite topic to teach and why?
I enjoy teaching most subjects, but I have a particular love of history and geography. The children seem to share this fascination with the past and the world around us and I love sharing stories and a knowledge of the world with them. They are like little sponges and if I inspire them to travel more and find out more about the world around them, then I think I have done my job.
What is your favourite thing about teaching?
My favourite thing is working with the children on something meaningful and creative. To let them explore, learn and make mistakes whilst having fun. Priceless.
How did you get into writing children's books?
I love to write. Anything and everything. I started writing children's books to entertain my classes. I would personalise them and include the children and staff as characters. I would write short stories and leave each chapter on a cliff hanger to keep the children excited and wondering what was going to happen next. It was great fun for them and me.
I would write scripts for class assemblies too - for myself and other teachers.
When I decided to write the Beyond The Hill series of books with my friend and fellow teacher, Darren Martin, I already had a huge back catalogue of ideas to tap into. I knew what worked and what the children enjoyed and responded to from my work in class so it seemed a natural next step.
Darren and I share the same sense of humour and we loved working on them together.
The series of Beyond The Hill books all focus on household objects for characters. We wanted to choose something that would be relevant to all children regardless of background or demographic. The characters are recognisable, everyday objects like forks and kettles. The relationships between the characters are important too. Each book focuses on a particular theme or value (like lying, bullying or insecurity). Something the children will experience in their own lives.
The books have inspired children to write their own versions of the stories and develop and draw their own characters - some of which can be seen on the website www.beyondthehill.co.uk
I would love to see the books in schools and bookshops around the country. I would also love to work with theatre/drama groups and take the ideas on the road!
Where do your character ideas come from?
I wanted the children's books and characters to be relevant to all children. Once we decided on which character would be the main focus for a particular book, the rest just fell into place as we shared ideas. The relationships between the characters are also key. Who would have ever thought a fork and a kettle would be arch enemies - Phileas Fork and Katie Kettle can't stand each other. Brian Bin is bullied by others for being smelly - that is until they realise his worth and importance to the house. Victor Vacuum is considered a monster and the Spoon Army are an all-round nuisance - but loveable with it.
Within the series, we have already unveiled about fifty characters with many more still to come. There will never be a shortage of household objects to develop into characters.
Who is your favourite children's author and book and why?
Growing up, I always loved the Mr Men books by Roger Hargreaves. My daughter loves them too and it has given me a chance to read them all again. They are timeless!
Are you working on any exciting projects?
I am currently working on two new novels and a screenplay. I have so many ideas buzzing around in my head, but it is so difficult to find the time to write as a single father and teacher (I can hear the violins now). I am 20,000 words into a new novel entitled 'One Last Waltz'. This one is set in a nursing home. I managed to finish my third novel, 'With Every Breath' during the covid lockdown. This tells the story of a young girl and her battle to survive against all the odds with the help of the local community. A very hard write, but one I am immensely proud of. 20% of any royalties go to the Cumberland Infirmary's Children's Ward. I hope that encourages people to give it a go.
My second novel, 'Once Upon A Time There Was A Man' is a real feel-good mystery tale set in and around England, New York and Germany. The response to this book was also really humbling. It took a long time to write with the amount of research needed but, again, I am incredibly proud of it.
My first novel, 'Conscience' tells the story of twenty people whose lives all overlap when a person is found murdered. This book is written entirely through the thoughts of the characters. The characters could be any one of us and the story shows just how important our thoughts and actions are.
My short stories are in the style of Alan Bennett's Talking Heads. I wanted to write a compilation of ten stories to go under the title, 'Relationships'. I have written six so far - I am getting there!
I am starting to write a new screen/theatre play called 'The Boardroom' which focuses on...on a struggling football club trying to make ends meet in the 1980s. The play is a comedy drama. I have teamed up with Darren again on this one and we are going to have great fun writing it together despite the fact that we have to work over Zoom. Darren currently resides in Bahrain and teaches at the British International School there, but we don't let a few thousand miles get in the way of a good yarn. Where there is a will and all that.
This is not my first attempt at script writing. I have also written a pilot episode for a comedy series set in primary schools called 'Hands Up'. You can download it below or I would be more than happy to send a copy on to anyone in the teaching profession. It may give you a giggle. Although a parody, I am sure many in the education industry would see more than a grain of truth and real life in the story and in the characters themselves.
If there are any agents, publishers, theatres or TV companies out there who want to invest in me, you only have to ask. All offers open for consideration. I'm easily flattered!
What is your favourite book from the Beyond the Hill series?
I love all of them to be honest. The same characters appear in all the books and I love the interactions between them. The Tale Of Phileas Fork was the first in the series and holds a place in my heart, but I have favourite characters too. The Spoon Army, Katie Kettle and Ian Iron to name but three. It is great fun developing the characters and their personalities.
So, you are appointed Secretary of State for Education for a year. What will your policies be/what would you change?
Of course, they need to be regulated, but schools (not suits) know what their children , parents and communities need. Allow these professionals to do their job.
I would also be less data driven. SATS mean nothing. They are just used for political manoeuvring and as a stick to beat schools with.
It may be wishful thinking on my part, but I think education and health sectors should be a cross party issue so they can't be used as a political football every time an election is due. If schools and hospitals/NHS were managed in agreement with all parties there would be no need to apportion blame from one side to the other. Maybe then we could work on doing what is right for the children and not just something to score political points with.
I'd also bring in free school meals for all primary school children and not just Key Stage 1. But that is purely for selfish reasons as my daughter is about to go into Year 3!
Which three historical figures would you invite for supper and why?
I would quite like to have a sit down with Queen Victoria. She always looked so bloody miserable. I feel it would be my duty to cheer her up! I would also ask her if she could get my parents some tickets for the Albert Hall and The Last Night Of The Proms. They have always wanted to go, but getting a ticket isn't easy. I would encourage her to have a word with her hubby. It is his hall after all!
My second guest would be George Best. I would encourage him to bring along a Miss World or two, but leave his car at home.
My third guest would be Michelangelo. I have studied his life and have been lucky enough to see the Sistine Chapel ceiling and The Last Judgement within the walls of the Vatican City. He was quite a rogue by all accounts. He would have a lot of good stories to tell. He could also nip round with a tin of paint and do something with my spare room. It is in need of a new coat.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
Enjoy life. Be kind and helpful to others. Never stop dreaming and keep reaching for the stars no matter what life throws at you. You only get one go at this life so make the most of it.
It was advice I was given by my parents when I was young. It can never be repeated enough!
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