Retiring west Norfolk headteacher reflects on ups and downs of 40-year career
- Credit: Ian Burt
Recruiting teachers to work in rural Norfolk is a key challenge for many of the county's headteachers, a retiring school leader has said.
After a 40-year teaching career, Jill Davis will step down from her role as executive headteacher of the west Norfolk Windmill Primary Federation, which covers West Walton, Terrington St John, Walpole Highway and Tilney St Lawrence primary schools, at the end of the school year.
Mrs Davis, who lives in Snettisham, has spent 20 years in education in Norfolk, 12 of which have been as headteacher at West Walton, which saw her oversee the founding of the federation in 2014.
She said the decision to leave had been a difficult one, but that - with the four schools now fully 'gelled' – now was the right time.
'I love my job so much that I've not wanted to take the opportunity to go,' she said. 'I absolutely love what I do and I'm determined to go out still loving the job. I don't want to leave thinking 'I'm tired of this'.'
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'I can't say I've never had a hard day – but I have honestly loved every aspect of my career.'
She said the 'constant change' in school guidelines was an ongoing challenge and having to 'do more with less money'.
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'Without a doubt, a big challenge is the change,' she said. 'All the different legislation, new curriculums, SEN changes – as soon as you get to grips with something, it changes.
'I have always tried to be pragmatic and accept that we can't fight it. If the government wants us to do something, we have to do it.
'The climate is going to get worse - there's going to be more to do with less money.'
But she said attracting teachers had been the main issue in rural west Norfolk. 'It is difficult everywhere, because the admin and the hoops people need to jump through are much more challenging – it just means you have to really, really want to be a teacher to start the training,' she said.
'I do think in west Norfolk it's been much harder – we aren't as close to towns or a city and it means that the number of applicants is lower.'
But, she added, the climate also meant candidates that did come forward were generally of a high quality.
Mrs Davis, 62, said the teamwork that had come with setting up the federation had been 'hugely beneficial' and was vital for rural schools.
'We do a lot of events together, our staff work together and the economies of scale benefit everyone. Most importantly, it means that small schools are kept safe and within their communities, which is so important.'
Running, long-distance walking and travelling to Nepal are among the plans for a retired Mrs Davis, but she admitted she would miss being in school halls.
'It is an amazing job, it's brilliant. At the end of the day it's about the children and making sure they have a good education, which is so special.'
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