The end of an era - Emotional farewell to Harrogate headteacher after 42 years

He only intended to stay for three years or so - but fast forward a remarkable 42 years, and St Aidan’s CE High School headteacher John Wood is now hanging up his chalk and retiring.

Friday, 30th August 2019, 11:32 am
The end of an era: The headteacher of St Aidan's CE High School, John Wood, retires.

You don’t often see chalk around schools these days, in an age of all-singing, all-dancing interactive white boards and all the other mod cons. But that’s what Mr Wood was handed on his first day - along with a board rubber, a mark book, and some banda sheets.

The school celebrated its golden jubilee in 2018, welcoming back alumni from over the last five decades, and now, St Aidan’s has marked another significant point in its history - bidding a fond farewell to Mr Wood, who has been at the helm through many major projects and developments over the years.

Cards, gifts and warm tributes have been pouring in for the widely known and respected headteacher, who said it has been an honour and a privilege to have served the school for so long.

Mr Wood said: “I have no regrets whatsoever about becoming a teacher. I have loved teaching - I never ever wanted to stay in bed and not come into school. Every day is different, and every day is interesting.

“Just working with young people is a privilege. I would say it’s a vocation, I really do believe that. It’s been a privilege to lead a community, but I really hate the idea that St Aidan’s is one person.

“Schools are communities - I think they are families. As a family, you share the happinesses and sad times. You have these ups and downs within the family unit. My colleagues over the years have been absolutely fantastic.”

These are the 10 best restaurants in Harrogate according to TripAdvisorMr Wood became the head of Year 7 in 1982 before becoming headteacher - another role that he will always treasure and hold fond memories of.

It is the day-to-day interactions with students and watching them grow in confidence and self-esteem during their time at school that Mr Wood has always found rewarding.

He said: “Budgets, finances, I know I’ve got to do. Staffing I know I’ve got to do, professional development and teacher training I know I’ve got to do.

“But at the end of it, the best part of my day was often just going up and down the corridors meeting the kids, chatting and chirping, so they felt that they were important, because it is about self-esteem, and feeling that they are known.

“We’ve got just under 2,000 students, and you could argue that it would be easy for some children to get lost in amongst that, and one of the things that I’ve tried to do all my career is make sure that no child feels lost, that every child feels as though they are known, and that every child feels valued.

“Sometimes it’s been so fantastic to look at a child who has come in with vulnerabilities, someone who has needed a bit of learning support, and then watch them on their journey, going on to get a place at university and following their dreams. That is a significant and very special moment.

“I would like to think that I have taken St Aidan’s forward in a constantly changing and challenging education system. I will miss it a lot - I have worked with inspirational teachers, colleagues, and young people, and it has been a joy to be here all these years.”

Biggest moments of last 42 years

The face of education has changed a lot over the last 42 years, and John Wood has seen a lot of developments at St Aidan’s during this time.

Mr Wood said: “I think probably one of the most important developments was LMS, the local management of schools, where we were given responsibility for our own monies.

“Improving the fabric of our buildings was significant. If you improve the fabric of your buildings, and if you improve the resources and classroom environment, then it has a positive impact on the education you are offering.

“You have then got the right environment for stimulating education. Becoming an academy was again an important stage and the right decision.”