Sheringham ‘superhead’ who rescued two Thetford schools from special measures to retire this summer and pursue dream of teaching overseas

Sheringham Primary head teacher Dominic Cragoe and pupils in the school playground. Photo: Karen Bet

Sheringham Primary head teacher Dominic Cragoe and pupils in the school playground. Photo: Karen Bethell - Credit: Archant

The head teacher of Norfolk's biggest primary school is set to retire this summer, after a 33-year career that saw him branded a superhead after steering two schools out of special measures.

Dominic Cragoe, who has been head at Sheringham primary for the past 15 years, is stepping down to pursue his original dream of teaching overseas.

But it was during his time at Thetford that he earned his superhead tag.

During his first headship, aged 34, he turned around the fortunes of first the failing Abbey Farm Juniors, then Redcastle Furze Primary.

Taking on Sheringham primary was part of a quest to see if he could succeed in a 'normal' school, he said.

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He has been head since January 2000, striving to take the school on to 'bigger and better things.'

Since 2005, the 619-pupil school, which was previously rated satisfactory, has been consistently rated good or outstanding, thanks in part, Mr Cragoe says, to a 'gentle' approach to the Year 6 Sats tests.

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'We try to do it in a kind way,' he explained. 'And while that might sometimes affect results, I refuse to squeeze other areas of the curriculum just to pump out a few more level fives or sixes.

'When you talk to people honestly, aside from politics, everybody agrees that children in a school where there is a broad, balanced curriculum are happier and more successful later in life.'

In 2011, Sheringham primary became one of the first National Teaching Schools in the county, sharing staff and expertise with struggling schools.

However, this new status meant father-of-three Mr Cragoe, 56, was effectively doing two jobs, juggling being a head teacher with travelling all over the region as a teaching school head.

It meant leaving his home at Banham at 6am and not getting back until 7pm, also working every school holiday.

'Running that, and running Sheringham primary was difficult to sustain,' he said.

So, when it was decided that two roles would be created, Mr Cragoe saw the perfect opportunity to take early retirement and fulfil his long-held dream of working abroad.

The governing body is currently working on appointing both a teaching school leader and a head teacher, who will take over when Mr Cragoe leaves in August.

As well as spending more time on his twin loves of swimming and fishing, in retirement, Mr Cragoe plans to fulfil his long-held dream of teaching in Africa or India with his wife Hansa - who works for Norfolk County Council on its Family Learning programme. His original plan at the start of his career was to teach in Papua New Guinea, before meeting Hansa at university and taking a teaching post in Slough.

'Sheringham Primary School is probably the best job I have ever had; the whole community has been fabulous and we have a phenomenal staff,' he said.

'As for the highlights of my career, it is the children: just seeing them grow, develop independence and maturity, and, even with the most challenging children, knowing they feel valued and at home here is wonderful.'

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