There are three very important things about Headship: Knowing when you are ready for the job, being lucky and finally knowing when it is time to go.
My first Headship began in 2002 and I couldn’t wait to get started. For the next five years I enjoyed every minute during a period when the Blair government’s mantra was ‘education, education, education’. Those were truly exciting times with high levels of funding and an agenda shaped by ‘Every Child Matters’ which set out to transform the educational landscape, particularly in cities like Wolverhampton.
In 2007 I was ready for a new challenge and was very fortunate to be appointed Headteacher at Highfields at the point when the school was to be completely rebuilt as part of the Building Schools for the Future programme. What an opportunity – to be part of a team to design and build a school from scratch. Very few Headteachers are lucky enough to build their own school. 2007-2012 were wonderfully challenging years as we tried out lots of new ideas, visited schools at home and abroad and engaged as many people as possible in the design process.
The result is Highfields as we see it today – not perfect, maybe, but a great set of school buildings which have created an outstanding environment for learning. Our ever-improving academic achievements are, in part, proof of this, with GCSE results last year being our best ever (we look forward to this year’s results in August) and our previously under-subscribed Sixth Form now the first-choice for many of our students wishing to continue their education before going on to university or employment. Outside of the classroom, the extra-curricular activities provided in the state-of-the-art facilities so many of you played a part in creating are vast and wide-ranging. Whether it be nurturing the talents of budding young stars of the stage and sports field, or providing a platform for youngsters to build confidence and friendships, Highfields’ work to ensure that every pupil achieves their full potential reaches far beyond the classroom.
The 747 applications we received for 252 places in Year 7 this year is testimony to the ideas, planning and resources that have gone - and continue to go - into the school and shows just how popular Highfields has become.
Highfields will always be popular because it is a values-driven school which believes in educating the whole child. It embraces any educational changes within this framework, enabling the school to be innovative whilst retaining many of its much-loved traditions. Its Headteachers will come and go but, whatever changes and improvements they make, the school will remain at the centre of the community meeting the needs of each generation of children. This is probably why so many of the staff at Highfields were once students at the school themselves and why some members of staff are now teaching the grandchildren of students they taught years ago. And long may this continue.
My nine years of Headship at Highfields pale, of course, into insignificance against the combined years of service of Mrs O’Shea, Ms Neale, Mrs Hall and Mr Mark who, together, have spent 95 years at Highfields. It has been a privilege to work alongside such colleagues and I wish them all a very happy retirement.
Like them, I know it is the right time to go and I will take my retirement knowing that the school is in very safe hands. It was very fortunate that my knowing it was time to retire coincided with Mr Tate knowing he was ready for Headship and I am delighted he will be Highfields’ new Headteacher in September. I wish him the greatest of luck but also, as the French say, ’bon courage’ because it is courageous Headteachers who really do make a difference!