The end of the school term in a couple of weeks’ time will mark an important point in the countdown to Christmas. The level of excitement amongst our city’s children will rise a few more notches, and we will all begin to feel just a little more, well, Christmassy.
But the end of term this year also marks the retirement of three of our most valued head teachers in Chester.
Maggie Evans is stepping down as Principal and Head Teacher of The Hammond School, Chester’s performing arts academy.
To attend one of The Hammond’s performances is just like watching a professional theatre production, such are the standards that Maggie and her team have achieved. She also successfully introduced, with Chester University, a degree in Performing Arts which is now firmly established.
Sue Yates is also retiring as Head Teacher of Blacon High School. Sue has transformed her school academically, demanding high standards of her staff and pupils, and making sure everyone reaches them, broadening the horizons of every child in her care with opportunities to take part in sport and music.
She has also overseen the building of a new school and sports facility – both of which could do with expanding because of the numbers now applying to Blacon High School.
Finally, Cheryl Bullen is retiring as Head of Hoole Primary School. Cheryl has been one of the group of head teachers who advise me on education and school matters. She never pulls her punches, but nor has she ever allowed diminishing resources at primary level to affect the quality of care and education she gives to her children.
Sadly, the crisis in education funding continues. Schools are having to reduce staff, special educational needs go unaddressed, curriculum options are reduced, and class sizes are going up.
So, when the Chancellor announced in his budget a few million pounds to provide schools with “the little extras” they might need, it actually caused more offence to teachers.
We are fortunate that in Chester and the surrounding area we are well served by our schools. But much of that is down to the teachers, and the leadership of the school heads, who will do their best to drive up and maintain standards come what may.
But falling budgets, an over-strict inspections regime, and even an increase in children’s mental health problems, make it harder than ever to meet the standards that I know all our head teachers and their staff want to achieve.
Our teachers deserve our thanks, and Maggie, Sue and Cheryl deserve a happy retirement.