Teacher Andy Seed has published a novel based on his time at the chalkface, reports Mike Laycock.

ANDY Seed’s world changed on a boiling hot day last July, as he stood on a fire escape outside a school in Stockton-on-Tees.

He had been working with children at the school and switched off his mobile. When he turned it on again, there were half a dozen missed calls and several text messages from his frantic agent and his wife Barbara. He went on to the fire escape to get some fresh air and discover in privacy what they wanted to say.

The news was momentous. Publisher Headline liked his book and were making an offer – a very good three-book, three-year deal – and he had only hours to decide whether to accept. His reaction, he says, was one of disbelief. “I was completely stunned. It was pretty incredible.”

His incredulity is understandable when he tells of the years of indifference to his book that he experienced from publishers and agents alike, of his dogged persistence in the face of such apathy, and of the strange sequence of events involving Alan Titchmarsh which eventually propelled him to success.

Andy, of Amotherby, near Malton, a former University of York graduate who underwent teacher training at the former College of Ripon and York St John – now York St John University – had long believed he had a good story to tell.

He had moved from York to the Dales with his wife Barbara in the mid-1980s after landing a teaching job in a primary school, and found his experiences fascinating and often highly amusing.

After leaving teaching to become a creator of educational resources, a poet and writer of children’s non-fiction, he decided in 2001 to start writing a book about his time in the classroom.

He spent a year planning and carrying out research, and then another couple of years writing it, always devoting his Saturday evenings to the task.

He would often read out chapters to his wife Barbara and children, who found them hilarious, and there was a similar reaction from other family members and friends. But when he sent off his manuscript to publishers and agents, the response was disheartening.

“There was no interest in it. I don’t think any of them even read it. Despite the success of the books by Gervase Phinn, who incidentally was one of my advisers when I was teaching, they didn’t think there was a demand for another such book. I put it on the shelf.”

But Andy remained convinced it could become a success and one day he sent the manuscript to Roger Hurn, another writer who worked with him as co-author on a series of books for children, who he knew would give him an honest opinion. “He called a spade a spade. He read it and enjoyed it, and said I must persist.

“Then one day, Roger’s wife was watching daytime TV while recovering from an illness and saw that Alan Titchmarsh’s show was running a competition called The People’s Author.

“They wanted true life stories from new writers, and asked people to send in short extracts of their work.

“I got through to the final but one of the judges thought that people wouldn’t want to read about schools so I didn’t win. But afterwards, I spoke to the head judge, who was from a major publisher, and asked if she could suggest an agent who might be interested.

“She agreed but I had to bombard her with phone calls and emails before she eventually gave me a name.”

Andy sent the agent his manuscript, and she got back to him saying she loved it, but he would have to make changes. He spent the next six months doing so by exchange of email, for example by giving Barbara a much greater presence in the narrative.

When his agent was finally satisfied, she made approaches to a number of carefully selected publishers. Six publishers, including Penguin, Macmillan, Arrow and Sphere, showed real interest and the book looked set to be at the centre of a bidding war until Headline came in with their pre-emptive offer.

Now with extracts from the book already reproduced in a national newspaper, and the possibility in the long term of a TV adaptation, Andy is already busy working on his second book.

* All Teachers Great And Small by Andy Seed is published by Headline, priced £14.99. The book will be launched today at Hoppers in Malton

Extracts from Andy’s book

After the class was asked to write about the events of the Nativity...

“According to Class 3, Jesus was born in an amazing number of places, including Jerusalem, Nazareth, Bethlehem and Egypt. The stories featured an interesting array of characters too, ranging from Moses to someone called John the Basher.

At least Mary and Joseph managed to feature in most of them, along with a stable – although the menagerie of creatures in there at the birth was quite phenomenal, with oxen, asses, horses, sheep, pigs, dogs and cats all getting in on the act. Several other notable contributions caught my eye:

Mary and Joseph lived with a donkey in NazarethThe angle said: “You are going to have a daddy.”Mary and Joseph were going to pay their taxisIn the stable was a ship and an oxoJesus was born in a pig trofThe three kings gave Jesus gold, myrhh and a woolly jumper.

It was clear that they needed to hear the story once more.”

A parent’s ‘sick note’ for her child:
“Dear Mr Seed,
I am sorry that are Jack was not at school yesterday. He put on such a groth spurt in the night that nun of his clowthes fitted im next morning so I had to take him to the shops.

Mrs R.”