How a good teacher inspired the author, Damian Thompson – 32 years later Peter Pegnall continues to deliver!

It is fascinating how much difference a good teacher can make in inspiring a young person. It is wonderful to experience that rare magic moment when it suddenly clicks’.

Given the declining level of literacy in society, a time when employers are crying out that young people from Eastern Europe can write in better English than many of our young people, there has never been a better time to do all that is necessary to get young people writing.

It is a pleasure to see people whose job also happens to be their hobby, particularly when they do it in such a way that delivers the results as well. In the years that I have worked with Peter Pegnall, the students he has taught have gone on to achieve amazing examination results. Among many others, there are two stories in particular that come to my mind.

There was this young man who came to study with us about four or so years ago. He was very shy and did not speak much, although he thought a lot about the part of London he lived in and was very frightened of gang culture and of all the not so friendly young people he came across on a daily basis. He had achieved an E grade at AS level and was studying for his final year of A-level. After being taught by Peter, he was a different man, able to turn all those thoughts he had in his head into poems. More importantly, he read out a couple of his poems in a public event. In fact it was an event in which we invited Damian Thompson as the Guest of Honour a few years ago. This boy went on and achieved a C grade in English at A2 level, having only studied with Peter for a few months, with huge gaps to make up for.

The second story is that of a middle class, 17-year-old English girl. Due to various circumstances, she had left home and was not living with her parents. Whilst in the final year of her A-level at school, she was also working in the evenings and at weekends to earn money to sustain herself. Her schoolwork had suffered and despite her success at GCSE and her good upbringing, she only managed a D grade at AS level. After a few lessons by Peter, it was pleasing to see that she ended up with an A grade. It was in those days when A* had not been introduced.

I found the events surrounding the two stories above very uplifting. One of the qualities that Peter possesses is the ability to run his classes in a less formal and rigid manner, whilst still getting a lot from young people. He imposes his authority on the group and deals mercilessly with any young so and so who tries to mistake freedom to express for a weakness. In his article in the Telegraph Damian Thompson spoke about how Peter dealt with a troublemaker 30 years ago at his Catholic grammar school. These days, potential troublemakers do not get shot down with such colourful language but they still get the point and are put where they belong after the fear of God has been put in them. Thank God we do not have many of those in our Saturday Classes!

More about Damian Thompson

After graduating from Oxford University in History, followed by a PhD from the London School of Economics, Damian Thompson has held various key roles in journalism. He was the Editor in Chief for the Catholic Herald, now a columnist in the Daily Telegraph and the editor of Telegraph Blogs. He is also an author who has recently released a new book called The Fix. You can read more about Damian at Wikipedia.

More about Peter Pegnall

Peter is a poet, an author and an educator. After graduating with a Distinction from Queens College in Belfast, Peter has had many key positions including being the head of English at Brighton College for several years. He has run the Richmond Bright Scarf poetry group for several years. He teaches our A-level at Excel in Key Subjects in addition to being a blogger in the Daily Telegraph.

  • Please follow this link to read the Telegraph article by Damian Thompson about Peter Pegnall.
  • Please follow this link to read more about Peter Pegnall