Momentous change at Stalham school

STALHAM High, one of Norfolk's smallest secondary schools, is undergoing an academic year of momentous change. The beginning of term in September saw the 530-pupil school gain specialist status in the humanities.

STALHAM High, one of Norfolk's smallest secondary schools, is undergoing an academic year of momentous change.

The beginning of term in September saw the 530-pupil school gain specialist status in the humanities.

It will end next month with the departure of John Chilvers, the county's longest-serving current secondary headteacher, who will have notched up 16 years at the school.

And pupils will return in 2009 to another landmark in their school's history with the arrival of the first woman headteacher, Melinda Derry.


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Mr Chilvers, 57, will bow out having overseen other recent watershed events. Last year Stalham High opened its doors to 11-year-old year seven pupils for the first time, following a reorganisation of schools in the area.

The school also celebrated the completion of nearly £4m of building work, providing six new classrooms, two science laboratories, a dining hall and music area.

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That work was the first extension to the school, which opened in 1939, for about 30 years.

"I think the time is ripe for my retirement, both for myself and the school. My drive and energy levels are not sufficient to continue as effectively as I would want," said Mr Chilvers.

"I feel I've done my stint! 16 years is a long time to be a headteacher in the modern era. Specialist status will give the new head a platform for significant change based on increased funding."

Despite heading a small, rural school, Mr Chilvers said he was proud of the opportunities Stalham High offered pupils, in and outside lessons.

Extra-curricular activities had always included an annual trip to Europe and next May a party of 24 students would be visiting Kenya.

Stalham's rural setting meant that transport for pupils was a constant challenge and he thanked parents for their support in ensuring children did not miss out on after-school activities.

Mr Chilvers, who has been teaching for 35 years, singled out the constraints imposed by the National Curriculum as the biggest headache for today's teachers, because they prevented them from using their professional imaginations.

But he said the situation was improving and he identified the most encouraging aspect of the job as the high quality of student and newly qualified teachers.

"Teaching is still incredibly stimulating - hugely-energy giving and energy-demanding - and I want the next generation to be taught by people who are enthusiastic for the profession," he said.

And Mr Chilvers, who is married with two adult children and a grandchild, may be back in the classroom himself in future.

A trained historian, he is contemplating a part-time teaching role after retirement and he would also like to get involved in voluntary work, possibly in the world of cricket. He plays for Eaton and is a great fan of the

game.

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