Exeter secondary school principal to retire

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Exeter secondary school principal to retire

Posted: 15/07/2009 09:11:29

Oone of Exeter's longest-serving headteachers is to retire at the end of term.

Terry Hammond, principal at St Luke's Science and Sports College, is retiring after more than 13 years leading the school.

During that time, Mr Hammond has supervised the move from the dilapidated old school in Ringswell Avenue to the college's new buildings in Harts Lane, overseen the designation of St Luke's as a science and sports specialist college and played a key role in the reorganisation of education across the city.

And, crucially, he has also been responsible for major improvements in the achievements of students at St Luke's itself.

Just last month (June) the college received national awards for being one of the most improved schools in the country over the past three years and for its 2008 double science results, which made it the top school in the country for the subject.

The college's last Ofsted, in 2008, praised the outstanding care, guidance and support provided for students and their rising academic standards.

The inspectors said every aspect of school life at St Luke's was good with many outstanding features.

"The college can be justifiably proud of the maturity and eagerness to learn exhibited by all the youngsters under a regime nurtured by caring and committed staff," they said.

And, to Mr Hammond's lasting satisfaction, he says city parents are now 'voting with their feet'.

The college is oversubscribed and fills up every year with new entrants who make it their first choice.

It wasn't like that when he took over on April Fool's Day in 1996.

The school had been in a very difficult financial position and there was a need to establish a clear vision for the future.

"We had a difficult first year," remembers Mr Hammond. "And then Ofsted announced they would be inspecting us.

"But that was the turning point. That Ofsted visit brought all the staff together and we had a good inspection.

"Education is all about strong leadership and the governors gave their full support to expand the leadership team.

"We now have a fantastic team at St Luke's, so much so that I believe my departure and the arrival of the new principal will be seamless.

"The chair of governors, Chris Buswell, and the governors have enabled me to expand the leadership team and ensure we all share a common ethos of caring for each and every student.

"That positive ethos runs through the staff so that we all think: How can we make a difference to people's lives."

A few days ago, Mr Hammond went back to the old school buildings.

"It brought home to me how lucky we are to have such a wonderful school," he said.

"It has helped us achieve three years of improving exam results and, because of the resources we now have, given us the opportunity to offer a broad range of choices to our students, geared to their personal learning needs.

"They have got every opportunity to be fit and healthy and our Skilled for Health programme, which 150 families are signed up to, means we can offer the benefit of our facilities to the wider community as well."

The philosophy of making a difference to people's lives has been the golden thread stretching though Mr Hammond's career.

He was born in Northamptonshire and grew up with a passion for literature and an ability for maths.

He was heading for a career in accountancy until, in the sixth form at school, he was asked to stand in for a teacher and cover for a first form maths lesson.

"I really enjoyed it and got the bug then," he says. "I had a passion for English and I got more experience and went on to do my teacher training, with English as my first subject.

"So instead of a choice of career which would have given me a secure financial footing, I went to teach in a challenging school serving London's docklands.

"It was very exciting and convinced me I had made the right decision. The whole point about it is making a difference to people's lives."

From London Mr Hammond moved to Essex where he taught in three schools finishing up as an assistant head.

Now with a young family - his wife is also a teacher - a holiday in Totnes convinced them they wanted to bring up their children in Devon.

He successfully applied for a post as deputy principal at Brixham Community College and Mrs Hammond was appointed to the staff of the local primary school.

It was from Brixham he came to St Luke's. "So why, when Ofsted praise your 'excellent leadership' and commend you and your senior leadership team for providing 'inspirational direction' for your college, do you decide to retire?"

"I want to give back some time to my family," says Mr Hammond. "Sonia, my wife, retired last year and our first grandchild is seven months old so there are some babysitting duties to undertake.

"I also feel I am handing over St Luke's at a good time for someone to take it forward to even greater heights."

The Hammond name will continue in teaching however. One of Mr Hammond's two daughters is a teacher in Devon - "I couldn't persuade her otherwise", he jokes - while his second daughter is an optometrist and his son is just beginning a Master's degree.

"As well as spending more time with them, I also want to pick up the threads of the ambition I had to write when I was younger. I am convinced there is at least one novel in me and I would like to write it. It's really irrelevant if anyone reads it.

"I also want to do some voluntary work and I hope to keep an interest in education in some way.

"I have always disliked the obsession with data and statistics. I am more concerned about human beings as individuals and helping them as best we can."

Freed from the torrents of paperwork that engulf every head, Mr Hammond says he hopes to be able to combine a role in education with his writing and some travelling.

"I am obviously really proud of St Luke's," he says, "but also what we have been able to achieve across Exeter

"There is very strong collaboration between the schools and between us and Exeter College and Exeter University.

"I was privileged to have been working in Exeter when the late Professor Ted Wragg was very active and he made everyone feel valued and encouraged the whole impetus for us working together.

"The success of all the secondary schools in their Ofsted inspections show that the reorganisation, the investment in new buildings and the collaboration between schools, colleges and the University are making a real impact on standards and we are moving towards a Learning City of which we can all be proud."

Permalink: http://www.thesite.co.uk/viewnewsstory.asp?newsid=3065

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