High school head bids fond farewell

Bungay high school headteacher Sean O'Neill is set to retire this Christmas.

Bungay high school headteacher Sean O'Neill is set to retire this Christmas. - Credit: Nick Butcher

A Suffolk headteacher who has seen his school become an academy and graded outstanding by Ofsted will be retiring today after nine years.

Sean O'Neill joined Bungay High School in January 2005, and said it was the school he had always wanted to teach at.

Previously a headteacher in Leiston for nearly seven years, Mr O'Neill, 60, said he made the decision to retire to spend more time with his grandchildren and to allow someone younger to continue the school's success.

Mr O'Neill said: 'I always wanted to be a headteacher. A mentor of mine was a headteacher and I liked the way he ran his school.

'I thought if Bungay ever came up that was the school I wanted to be head of because the culture and ethos of the school is everything I wanted.

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'The thing about Bungay High School is that it's not just about one person, we are part of a team.

'The team is made up of 1,355 students, 155 staff and a great set of governors who really understand what the school is all about and have given me the freedom to take the school in the direction it has been going and so far it has worked.'

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Mr O'Neill said he was proud of the school's working relationship with the primary school and middle school, involvement with the community and of the school becoming an academy in 2011, which he said gives them more freedom to use their resources and an extra chunk of money to react to students' needs.

Mr O'Neill will be replaced by Catherine Wiltshire, associate headteacher at the school, who will become acting headteacher for two terms. Angelo Goduti, the current deputy headteacher at Farlingaye High School in Woodbridge, will then become headteacher next September.

Mr O'Neill added: 'I've got five awesome grandchildren and I'm keeping my hand in by working in schools up and down the country, some local and some quite far away.

'My wife and I are 60 this year and I look at the time I have been at Bungay High School and what needs to happen now and I think it needs a younger person to continue the work.

'I've been teaching for 39 years and I've never not wanted to go to work. I've had a blessed career but it's time to do something different.

'I wish every student at Bungay High School a successful career ahead of them because they are a wonderful bunch.'

Mr O'Neill also thanked the school governors for their support and Barbara Charlish, his personal assistant, who is also retiring after 23 years at the school.

In his last speech as headteacher at the school's presentation evening on Monday Mr O'Neill told pupils: 'This evening is all about the celebration of success, not just for exam results but also for endeavour, resilience, responsibility, reflectiveness and resourcefulness.

'I look back over the year and glow in the highlights that you have provided for us.'

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