Retiring Wellingborough headteacher says it's been the 'greatest years' of his career

Wrenn School will soon be saying goodbye to the man who has been at the helm for six years

By Stephanie Weaver
Thursday, 25th February 2021, 5:06 pm

Wrenn's retiring headteacher says his time at the school has been the 'greatest' of his 33-year career.

Steve Elliott started at Wrenn School in February 2015 when Ofsted said the school required improvement.

The next inspection saw the school slip to inadequate, but Mr Elliott was always confident things could change and he was so proud when the school was rated good in May 2018.

Steve Elliott from Wellingborough's Wrenn School

Speaking to the Northants Telegraph ahead of his retirement this summer, Mr Elliott said: "The greatest achievement of my 33 years of teaching is when Ofsted said good for Wrenn School, we went through a real journey from grade four to get that.

"That's the highlight of my career and many of the staff's careers here.

"It was such a great feeling to be given the honour of being a good school."

But the achievements don't stop there as Wrenn won the Northants County Council Secondary School of the Year in July 2018 and was shortlisted for an outstanding progress national award in June 2019.

Other highlights include Wrenn Sea Cadet Centre's Hydra Ship being granted independent status in February 2015, exam success improving year on year, the school being taken on by the Creative Education Trust in November 2018 and the launch of its science bus in 2019.

More than 35 per cent of sixth form students go to Russell Group universities and the school has gone from being a bottom 20 per cent school to a top 20 per one.

Mr Elliott knew it was never going to be a quick fix, but his leadership has steered them through some tough times to where they are today.

Mr Elliott said: "I didn't think it would be six years, but it's been six glorious years.

"It's been the greatest years of my career.

"The senior leaders team, the staff, the governors, the parents and the community - it's been a pleasure to work with them."

Mr Elliott believes Wrenn's success is down to the staff, parents, governors, students and the Creative Education Trust, modestly describing himself as 'merely the gatekeeper to the jewels within."

But he really has thrown himself into the job, setting off from Yorkshire at 4.30am every Monday morning and spending the week in rented accommodation in Wellingborough 135 miles away from his family.

He is often the first one at school and the last one to leave at night, but said: "I have loved every minute, I have jumped out of bed every day and enjoyed every day.

"I will miss the people when I leave and I will miss the people of Wellingborough.

"It's going to be heartbreaking walking away."

However Mr Elliott is confident he is leaving the school in a good position and his successor will help Wrenn become an outstanding school at its next inspection.

He feels the school has achieved so much in recent years and says there is nothing he would change about his time there, although he added: "I would love Wrenn to have a sports hall in the future, not just for the school but for the community."

Being part of the community is something Mr Elliott has always wanted and he is proud that the school is now recognised in Wellingborough for its pastoral care where all students have the opportunities to achieve beyond their potential.

Confidence from parents has also increased during his tenure: "Back in 2015, the parent view was saying that 52 per cent of parents were happy.

"As of today, 96 per cent of parents are saying they are happy with Wrenn.

"That's a huge turn around and something we are very proud of.

"It's a real vote of confidence from the parents, we are now seen as a caring school."

Mr Elliott has no regrets about his time at Wrenn, saying: "I have put my heart and soul into the place and I have been privileged to have job satisfaction from working with the very best people.

"We are proud to be Wrenn in every aspect and we will continue on the journey."

But the past year has seen him having to lead his school through a pandemic, undoubtedly one of the biggest challenges he has faced during his career.

He said: "Since March, education hasn't been the same.

"It's been so challenging to continue with quality education.

"It's been challenging for us all, the parents and staff."

He thinks it could take three years for education to catch up with where it was, but added: "Undoubtedly, it's been a really difficult time, but there has been some good that's come out of it, including the overwhelming success of online parents evenings."

And he is full of praise for his staff who have gone the extra mile to help students as well as each other.

He says staff morale is probably the highest it has ever been so clearly his passion for education and being the best they can be is contagious.

But once the summer holidays start, Mr Elliott will be making the trip from Wellingborough to Yorkshire for the final time as there won't be any exam results to return for in August.

Despite this, he has six 'amazing years' to look back on and said: "It's the most amazing journey I could ever have wished for.

"I only ever wanted to make changes and stamp my personality on it, but never in my wildest dreams did I think we could achieve so much.

"I have loved every minute of it.

"I am ever hopeful that by July we will be in a situation where pubs, restaurants and venues that have sufficient room will be open so we can have a large gathering to finally say 'au revoir sir.'"

And it is not only the school which he has come to love, he quite likes his second home too, saying: "I have loved the people of Wellingborough, and I have got used to the accent.

"Wellingborough is a great town, the gateway to the Midlands."

But none of this would have been possible without the blessing of his family, who have given him their full support for the past six years.

And when September comes around, what will be on the timetable for him?

Mr Elliott said: "I will miss it, it's been a big part of my life.

"I have given my life, my heart and soul to the school, it's been one fifth of my teaching career."

But he has no plans for going into consultancy, he is looking to retire, take a break from education and 'see where my life takes me' starting with a holiday booked for when term re-commences.