Looking back after 25 years at St Mary’s

20 January 2021

Celebrating a quarter of a century at St Mary’s at the beginning of this month and the announcement of the new Principal, Mrs Nicola Griffiths who will take up the reigns upon my retirement at the end of the summer term, has given me the opportunity to reflect on the 25 glorious years spent at this wonderful school. It’s gone remarkably quickly – in a flash – and I had no idea I’d stay this long when I started all those years ago.

Back then, when I first took the job, I had a three-year-old and four-month-old son. I was heavily pregnant when I came for my interview and one of the things I’ve always appreciated is the fact I could have my family and combine it with work and taking on positions of responsibility. I wanted to be the best I could be professionally, but I also wanted to try and be the best wife, mum and citizen, too. St Mary’s has allowed me to do that and, right from the start, I was struck by the warm, friendly atmosphere. It was remarkable and the same applies to the town, as well as the school. It’s such a nice place to live and I’ve always been happy here, both working at St Mary’s and living in Colchester. For Mrs Griffiths, having grown up in Mersea and attended Colchester County High School for Girls and The Sixth Form College, Colchester, this area is already familiar territory.

In addition to academia, I have always strived to open students’ eyes to the world around them, teaching them inclusivity, humility and a feeling that the sky is the limit. The emotional wellbeing and happiness of the girls is always of paramount importance. It’s about opening the girls’ eyes to the world around them and not just being in the classroom, but instead helping them become better, more caring people. I take great pleasure in the knowledge that Mrs Griffiths has a wealth of experience and expertise in educating girls; she is currently Deputy Head at Ipswich High School, formerly Ipswich High School for Girls, and prior to that worked for eight years at fellow Girls’ Schools Association school, Benenden School, an all-girls boarding school in Kent. It has always been our mantra that happy students become high achievers and from my discussions with Mrs Griffiths I am sure she will continue to promote this positive approach.

It’s also crucially important to have happy staff, because they’re the most important resource at any school. My predecessor made me feel valued and it’s something I’ve always strived for, too. You can have all the technology and textbooks in the world but if your staff aren’t happy and looked after, you won’t be successful. It’s no surprise some of the staff here exceed my 25 years. Some have been here over 30 years. It’s lovely to have that continuity but we’re certainly not complacent and there’s no chance of becoming stale. Staff are always learning, developing and training to be the best they can be and that’s certainly been true during the pandemic.

It seems a bit gloomy at the moment but there are plenty of lovely, positive things going on and none more so than here at St Mary’s. It’s been a challenging time but, thanks to the hard work of our staff and girls, things have gone well. Everyone has worked hard to adapt and make the best of the situation. The same goes for our wonderfully supportive parents. Many are former students and they come from all different walks of life. They work hard to send their daughters to us because they believe it gives their girls the best possible start.

Although it’s going to be the end of an era when I retire in August, I am looking forward to doing more of the things I love – playing sport, walking, cycling, skiing and generally keeping fit. It’s about new horizons and as a Geographer I’m very keen to travel out of school holidays! I’m looking forward to taking different opportunities and embracing new challenges – just as we always tell our girls to do.

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