Miles Wallis-Clarke, Headteacher
Resignation (December 2020)
I am writing with mixed emotions today – and I apologise if this comes as a shock to you. Both Gary and I have decided to resign from Headship and have informed our respective Chairs of Governors. I will be leaving a job that I love – Headteacher at Hotspur – in December this year; the end our community carols will be the start of a new chapter for me. I will be doing a range of things in the future – mainly I will be a civil celebrant of funerals and weddings and continuing to work within cultural learning.
I would like to put my decision into a context for this school community, which is so important to me. I have been a teacher for over 30 years now, and next Friday will mark the end of my 15th year as head at Hotspur. I never imagined that I would stay so long in one job – but this is an incredibly special place to be. It is made special by the many people connected to it – children of course, their diverse families, my wonderful colleagues, fabulous governors and the many individuals and organisations that we collaborate with in the local community and further afield.
There are elements of my work that I am pleased to be moving away from. It is no secret that I am uncomfortable with some aspects of the educational landscape created by central government. The pressures on school leaders and staff teams are intense and relentless. I have been through four OFSTED inspections at Hotspur – that is enough for me! Although there have been some welcome shifts in the framework it remains a punitive system that is too heavily focused on flawed data from tests that concentrate on a narrow aspect of the educational experience that can be easily ‘measured’. Schools have been forced down a path that leads to an impoverished curriculum, stressed teachers and pupils, and an inequality of provision and outcomes for children – particularly for those from more disadvantaged backgrounds. At the same time we have seen the systematic erosion of services and agencies that support our vulnerable families. Life is so much harder for many in our community than it should or needs to be. You will all also be aware that the last year has not been the easiest for me and this has taken its toll on my own wellbeing. I don’t want to become a negative, cynical and grumpy Headteacher – and I assure you I am not that yet!
I realise that this sounds a little negative. There are many positive reasons for me choosing this as my last year at Hotspur. I have already mentioned some things that I intend to do in the future. I hope to also do some vocal projects with Gary in schools and continue to support singing in my role as Chair of trustees for the national singing organisation Sing for Pleasure. I am looking forward to a different pace of life with space for some new priorities– hanging my washing out to dry, making marmalade and not resorting to Amazon purchases are a few changes I want to make.
Making this decision has not been easy. I have had a few wobbles in the last couple of weeks wondering if it is the right thing to do. There will be so much that I will miss. It is an absolute privilege to be Headteacher at Hotspur – I am so proud of so much that we do. I am still passionate about providing a broad and rich curriculum for all children – I think children should leave primary school with fantastic memories of learning that is exciting, surprising, relevant, challenging and of course enjoyable – after all this their childhood! School should be life-changing. I want children to find out the things that they like doing and are good at – rather than being constantly reminded about what they can’t do. We have to be able to adjust learning so that children can access it whatever their barriers – I see staff at Hotspur doing this every day in such creative and thoughtful ways. We have to remember that we are helping our children to prepare for life - not just a career. We strive to provide opportunities to try different cultural activities, sports or develop interests that may lead to life-long passions and hobbies. Lives may be greatly enriched for example, as mine is, by singing in a choir, playing netball or visiting galleries and museums. A great curriculum will constantly be evolving and be experienced differently by each child. I love seeing how teachers work together to interpret and develop learning at Hotspur.
The only certainty about the future is that it will not be the same as it is today. A key feature of our work children’s wellbeing being central to their school life through, for example, the Thrive approach which is embedded in the curriculum. We value helping children to develop as rounded, resilient people who can contribute to society with compassion and empathy, celebrating and defending the wonderful diversity that is the reality of modern day life.
A great joy for me is seeing children grow and mature as they move through school. Often when children leave in Y6 I will have known them since birth, if they have older siblings. I regularly talk about our ‘quirky’ children – and this is a huge compliment to them. I love that our children are individuals – with differing skills, talents, interests and ideas about the world. I also cherish the way in which so many of them understand, respect and celebrate their differences. I also enjoy meeting and chatting with former pupils, which seems to happen regularly at the moment. It is so interesting to hear what they remember - what was important to them at Hotspur, what they enjoyed, and what has had a long-lasting impact on them. These memories are as diverse as you would hope but often include big projects, singing, playing on the field, learning about diversity and so much more. Preparing for SATs hasn’t come up yet! The biggest compliment, which has been reflected in differing ways by other former pupils, was a young man who said, ‘Hotspur gave me the confidence to be who I really wanted to be’. If we can do that I am very happy.
I hope that by announcing my departure now there is time for the governors to ensure a smooth transition for my successor. However I’m still here for quite a while and will continue to be committed to the continuing development of the school and its community. I am looking forward to our Ouseburn project in the summer – and some other curriculum surprises that we have planned.
I will always be proud to say that I was Headteacher at Hotspur and will take so many amazing and happy memories and, I hope, life-long friendships with me.
Miles Wallis-Clarke, Headteacher
Miles has had a huge influence on Hotspur, and we are grateful that he has given the school so much time not only to seek a new Headteacher, but also to ensure a smooth transition. We also get to keep him and his talents for the rest of the year!
There will be plenty of opportunity for us to plan a fitting way to say "Goodbye and Thank You" to Miles, and no doubt we will all have our ideas of what we want to do.
For now, please rest assured that the school will continue as normal, led by the Headteacher in the way that we have all become accustomed to. It will be the job of the Governing Body to ensure we continue the high standards that he has set.
Jon Bryan, Chair of Governors
Miles with the two former headteachers of Hotspur - Gustav MacLeod and Jenna Hale and Lord (Roy) Hattersley who opened the school in 1984 at the school's 21st birthday celebration with Annie Walker, former Deputy, in the background
Miles with current Deputy Head Kevin McVittie
Miles with husband Gary with children Oscar and Lily