West Oxfordshire’s longest-serving head teacher is stepping down after 12 and a half years at the helm of Chipping Norton School today (Friday, July 20).
Simon Duffy has seen the school through plenty of highs and a few lows but leaves filled with pride.
One of the things I’m most proud of is that we’ve never lost sight of the fact that schools are about people, not buildings.Chipping Norton School head teacher Simon Duffy
Mr Duffy told the Banbury Guardian that he would greatly miss everyone who has made his time at the school and in the town so special.
“I finished my training 35 years ago and of those 35 years, I’ve spent over a third of them here which is the longest time I’ve been in any job, and that itself speaks volumes about the quality of Chipping Norton School to be frank,” he said.
“I think it’s a wonderfully warm, human place and one of the things I’m most proud of is that we’ve never lost sight of the fact that schools are about people, not buildings.
“With students and staff here, we’ve always very much concentrated on the fact it’s about the lives of young people and not a piece of paper with an exam result at the end of it.”
Among Mr Duffy’s many highlights of his tenure, since he started in February, 2005, include the building of new art and science blocks as well as introducing houses again.
But overall he said his highlights are seeing ex-pupils and finding out their successes, which ‘strongly affirms’ the school’s role in preparing people for adult life.
He also leaves with Chipping Norton School rated as ‘good’ overall and its sixth form as ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted, after going into special measures in 2016, a period Mr Duffy describes as ‘gruesome’.
But he said the support from the whole community helped him and the school get through it which they have done.
The Banbury Guardian has been running an investigation into children’s mental health and Mr Duffy said the increase in issues seen in schools is a worry but it needs to be kept in proportion where it is not confused with common anxiety.
Schools across the country have been faced with budgetary cuts and Mr Duffy said he believes Chipping Norton has done well to manage it, but said the costs are only going to increase as it is only ‘the tip of the iceberg’, so more funding is needed.
Mr Duffy is moving into consultancy and teacher training – “if all schools were like Chipping Norton there wouldn’t be a teacher shortage” – with his replacement ready to go.
Barry Doherty takes over in September, who is moving from being a head teacher at a school in Birmingham, and visited the school in June.
Mr Duffy said the only advice he would give is to remember the ‘key moral principle’ to aim to make sure pupils leave the school better than when they came in, and be the best they can be.