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By IH Thursday 07 March 2013 Updated: 07/03 09:51
THE IMPORTANCE of good start in life is something Martin Houghton-Brown is all too aware of.
Martin is the chief executive of Depaul UK, the largest youth homeless charity in the UK, which for the past 21 years has not only helped put a roof over the head of young people in need, but also tackle the underlying causes of homelessness among the younger generation, such as poverty and long term unemployment.
And the 42 year-old father-of-three is quick to praise the solid grounding he received as a pupil at Shipston High School back in the 1980s.
Martin, who now lives in London, was recently reading the Stratford Observer website - www.stratfordobserver.co.uk - when he came across a story about his old school having been named as one of the top 100 best improved in the country for the progress made by pupils from when they join to when they take their GCSEs.
It came as no surprise to Martin as the memories came flooding back of his school days, and how thankful he was for the start the school gave him.
Martin said: "Thirty years ago I arrived as a school boy at Shipston High, my school reports tell that I was quite a shy and nervous pupil when I arrived.
"At the school, wonderful teachers built my confidence and aspiration. From that fabulous start I went on to grow and achieve. Now I have the honour of being the Chief Executive of the leading national youth homeless organisation, Depaul UK and working with HM Government to make things better for young people who suffer disadvantage. Shipston High set me up to achieve all of this.
"I wanted to join in applauding the national recognition for this fabulous school. A school that does everything it can to give its pupils an advantage. All credit to fabulous staff, supportive parents and of course the next generation of chief executives, the Shipston High pupils themselves."
Martin, who grew up in Stretton-on-Fosse, took over the helm at Depaul UK at the start of this year, and talks passionately about helping instill 'belief' and 'confidence' into the 40,000 young people the charity helps annually.
"I arrived at Shipston High with all the anxieties teenagers have, but crucially the teachers showed belief in me as a person, and supported my aspirations, giving me the confidence to do something meaningful with my life."
After taking his A levels, Martin trained as a teacher, but soon realised his vocation lay with helping young people on the streets.
For 12 years he worked helping young people with various problems in the Cotswolds and Yorkshire.
Form there he went on to become Deputy Director at The Children’s Society, and for the three years before taking over at Depaul UK, he was Chief Executive of Missing People, and his lobbying work during his time there resulted in the establishment of a Home Office Taskforce and the first government strategy for missing persons.
He was invited to return to his old school a couple of years ago for speech day where he gave a talk.
And while Martin may now be living and working in the capital, with its more visible social problems than rural Warwickshire, Shipston still plays a vital role in Martin's work. He still uses the town as a yardstick for the whole country. Would it work in Shipston? is a question he regularly asks himself. If the answer is no, then it would not work anywhere is Martin's view. If yes, then the whole country benefits from the Shipston test.
Visit www.depauluk.org for more on Depaul UK.
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