It is strange writing this foreword in November as I am leaving on the last day of this term (Tuesday 19th December), but I am grateful for the opportunity to reflect on my five years at this school. Wow, is it really five years! It seems more like five minutes since I took over as Headteacher in September 2012. “Time flies” as the saying goes.
I was able to reflect on my five years at the school during our fantastic ‘Prize-Giving Awards’ Ceremony which was held at the Plymouth Guildhall for the first time. It was a great occasion, and I was able to thank the many people who helped me during my time as leader of this wonderful school and to look back over some of the highlights of my time as head.
I will be, forever, grateful to the Trustees for their support during this time. I have been lucky to work with people of great integrity who work so hard for the school. Of course, the moment you mention people by name, you run the risk of forgetting others who have also been supportive. So, for now, I will just mention a few. Mr Glen Buckley was the first person at the Plymouth Campus I spoke to, and it was he who encouraged me to apply. Glen has shown me great kindness over the years, and he has been a true friend when I needed ‘someone in my corner’. I must also mention Reuben Prisgrove, Eric Burtenshaw, Murray Liesching and indeed Hugh Liesching for their support during my headship. At this point, I mustn’t forget to mention Ant Jenner. He was always willing to listen to the Staff’s concerns and on more than one occasion supported us when we had issues with Head Office. In the nicest possible way, I used to describe Ant Jenner as a ‘heavy hitter’ who was a good person to have on your side when the going got tough.
Jeff Keam and Malcolm Wallis are directly involved in the school at the present time, and they continue to give me the backing that is vitally important for the school’s leadership. Jeff and Malcolm have continued the good work of the Trustees, and their diligence will be very valuable to Mrs Jo Warburton when she takes over in January. I know they have already put in place a strategy to ensure a successor is found by April 2018.
Of course, my biggest thanks must go to the members of Staff who I have worked with since joining the school. They have been very loyal to me over the years, and together we have achieved a great deal. It is a source of great pride to me that I, together with the teaching and support staff, have played a part in helping this school develop.
I have taught in eight schools during my teaching career, and this is undoubtedly the best school I have worked in. This is because of the people in it. It is a lovely place to work. I have been happy in this school, and this is because the students are wonderful boys and girls and young men and young women. It has been a privilege to work with them.
So, looking back over the years, what am I most proud of?
Not surprisingly, I am absolutely delighted with the fantastic examination results, particularly over the last two years. Success at GCSE with our students breaking records with their results has been heart-warming.
And I know Mrs Warburton feels the same with regard to the performance of Primary pupils sitting their SATs tests in recent years.
The improvement in our students’ academic achievements has been impressive as mentioned by our Regional Principal, Mrs Bradbury at the recent Awards’ ceremony. I am also proud of the academic culture which has grown within the school, and I believe I have helped cultivate this. Indeed, I can praise the current Year 11s in this respect for their efforts and for their team approach. There are only six students in the year group, and they know how hard they are going to have to work to hit their target grades. But, to their credit, they have been voluntarily staying after school on a Tuesday for extra English and Mathematics lessons.
They see themselves as a team – they work well with each other, and I wish them every success in next June’s examination: they deserve every success because of their commitment.
I am particularly pleased with the tradition which is building with regard to the football matches that take place between the school’s First Eleven and the Tamar Valley Legends, a team made up of former students. It has been a source of great pride to me that over the last three years there have been five matches between the two sides. Each one of the matches have been played with a fantastic spirit, and I am proud of all the players. The statistics make good reading, and it is all square with both the TVS Legends and the School’s First Team having winning twice and with one draw. The last game saw our school’s team win 5-1 in a super match. And there is everything to play for next time they meet.
During my time at the school, I have tried to ensure that our students have had the opportunity to try different sports. I know many will remember having the chance to play badminton, cricket, tennis, handball, dodgeball, and trampolining, along with football and hockey which remain popular. Our school does not have excellent sporting facilities but thanks to the Trustees we continue to make the best use of local sports centre like the Life Centre and Brickfields.
This reference to Brickfields reminds me of another positive legacy and that is the extraordinarily popular Sports Day. This, surely, must be one of the highlights of the school year and I believe the use of professional timing has added to its popularity. The photographs and video images from the drone have helped make this day memorable for all the right reasons.
So…after saying all that, you might be wondering why I am leaving…
I am proud of being part of the success story of this school, and I hope I shall be remembered for this. But I believe it is the right decision to take early retirement at this time. We have been on a journey together, and I have been privileged to have ‘walked the same path with you’ over the last five years. But the time has come for another person to take over and lead this school to ‘outstanding’. The next Inspection is due in January 2019, and I felt it was necessary to give my successor time to establish themselves and to move the school forward yet further. Hence my decision to leave before the end of this academic year.
I will always keep Focus School Plymouth Campus in my thoughts and prayers, and I thank each and every one of you for support and kindness.
Mark P Kerridge, Headteacher
(adapted from the Plymouth Campus Newsletter, December issue)