A CEO bids farewell
After a long and illustrious career in education, the last eleven in Tenterden, first as Principal of Homewood and most recently as CEO of the Tenterden Schools Trust, Sally Lees is retiring and handing over the reins in September. In her final blog as CEO she reflects on her journey and what the Trust means to her:-
When you reflect on a career that spans over forty years, there are many highlights and lots of amazing memories. The job is never finished and there are things I would have liked to have achieved which I must leave to others: I would have liked to be here to see more of our local schools coming into our Trust; I would have liked to see our Trust properly celebrated by the DfE and recognised for the great work we do in our schools. I would have liked to see our schools, one by one, being officially recognised as the outstanding schools they have the potential to be and, in many respects, already are. But all these are prizes for the future and I am happy to hand over the baton, knowing that the ground work has been done and the future is bright for all our schools and for the Trust overall.
As well as thinking about what is still to be done, I also reflect on what has already been achieved. I am really proud of the Trust we have built. I love all our schools – they are unique, they have their own characters, but they are united in the passion to serve their pupils the best that they possibly can. I love the fact that we genuinely serve our local young people from their first days in our nursery schools through to the point that they leave Homewood ready to step into the world, properly equipped to live happy and fulfilled lives and to contribute to their community. I love the fact that our young people are properly looked after, their academic and pastoral needs are considered and met and their development is encouraged in a holistic way. I love the fact that our curriculum is so engaging, so varied and that every single pupil can find a pathway to success. I love the fact that young people with particular needs find a home in our schools and that we are so good at finding the right support for all of them. I am proud of the fact that we are known as a Trust that provides well for young people with SEND. I am proud that we are a mixed MAT of church and community schools. That is unusual and it required vision and passion to achieve it, along with strong support from the Diocese, including Bishop Trevor who championed our vision and helped it come to pass. We would not be a truly community Trust if we did not include all our local schools and were able to embrace both church and community schools and I love that about our Trust. I am proud that our Trust is a genuinely inclusive Trust, embraces all in our community and has such strong links with the locality. We are embedded in our community. We have a strong sense of place and purpose. So I can take heart that although there is always more to be done, much has been done already and there is so much potential for the future.
I am grateful to everyone who has played their part in supporting and encouraging me on my journey. Growing and leading great schools has been my passion as has working with other leaders across the wider system. Hence the vision for the Tenterden Rural Alliance and then the Tenterden Schools Trust and my work with Kent has been an important element of this too. My three years as Chair of the Kent Association of Headteachers were amongst the most rewarding things I have done. Indeed, I hope to continue my work in the wider field of education at a Kent level after I retire.
None of this would have been possible if I had not been surrounded by the most amazing teams. I have been very fortunate in my leadership teams. At Homewood, there were experienced and talented leaders in place when I joined and in the last ten years a whole new generation of leaders has come to the fore and is now flourishing under Mr Single’s headship. Across the Trust, we have Headteachers and leaders who are skilled and experienced and have taught me so much about primary education and the importance of those very early years in a child’s development. We have great teachers and incredible support staff. And I have always had the knowledge and wisdom of experts in the wider aspects of school management – premises, finance, HR, ICT and governance – who have ensured that we stay on the right track and have the resources and infrastructure we need to be able to do the job in the classroom.
So thank you to parents, to staff, to my Headteacher colleagues, to my PA Debra who has been my rock throughout, to my central team colleagues and to the Governors and Directors and Members who have been so supportive and understood what we are trying to do. Your support has been incredible and I am truly grateful.
I am hoping I will be invited back to visit. I am so excited to see how this Trust is going to fly, building on the solid foundations that are in place. I have been privileged to be part of the Homewood story, to be in at the birth of the Tenterden Schools Trust and to have worked alongside such an incredible band of people. I am looking forward to watching the next chapter unfold.
It has been a wonderful journey and there are so many great memories. But the greatest memories are of individual students some who have relished learning and brought enthusiasm and interest to everything they do, others who have flourished through the arts, sport or practical skills and others who have found their way, sometimes against all the odds, found the support, intervention, encouragement and love they needed to flourish and have ended up finding their own individual path to success. Thousands of individuals who I have had the honour to work with and play a small part in equipping them for life. I have always felt that to be the great privilege of working in education and each and every one of them has a place in my heart.
CEO, Tenterden Schools Trust