School’s out at last for Paul

Paul Lawrence is pictured celebrating with Chantry Middle School and Technology College pupils in 2012 after key improvements were recognised in a very positive Ofsted report.
Paul Lawrence is pictured celebrating with Chantry Middle School and Technology College pupils in 2012 after key improvements were recognised in a very positive Ofsted report.

THE outgoing head of Morpeth’s two middle schools has looked back with pride at his part in the development of the town’s education provision.

After spending 18 years of his career in Morpeth, which included fighting to keep the three-tier system in place and being part of the team that set up a converter academy involving three of its schools, Paul Lawrence has decided to retire.

With a need to cut costs following a reduction in funds from the Government, he has taken voluntary redundancy to enable a senior management restructure to happen.

In a show of appreciation, staff from Chantry and Newminster Middle Schools and Technology Colleges and King Edward VI High School attended a farewell party at Riverside Lodge in High Stanners and pupils got the chance to say goodbye at special end-of-term events.

Mr Lawrence said: “The timing is right for me to retire and there was no pressure put on me to make this decision.

“More importantly, I’m delighted that the The Three Rivers Learning Trust (academy) can take the next logical step in its management structure by having an executive headteacher for all three schools (Simon Taylor) working in partnership with three heads of schools.

“Under Simon’s leadership, it’s inevitable that the trust will go from strength to strength.

“I will miss most aspects of the job greatly, especially working with pupils and my colleagues, although I won’t miss the snowy mornings or being on lollipop man duty.

“I’m now looking forward to spending more time with the family and having more time for things like playing golf and gardening.”

The 60-year-old moved to Northumberland in 1992 to be the head of Seaton Sluice Middle School and three years later he took on the role at Newminster.

A few years later, it raised in the region of £170,000 for a new Year 8 block through running its own school meals service. Reaching this amount meant it received match funding from Northumberland County Council.

“Newminster was fairly traditional and very strict when I joined and it needed to move forwards with the changing nature of society,” said Mr Lawrence.

“The first Ofsted report with me as head mentioned that Newminster was now a more student-friendly school and I took it as a great compliment. Today, the school is far more pupil driven and staff are open to feedback from them and parents.”

One of the main challenges he had to face was the threat of closure in the mid 2000s under the county council’s Putting the Learner First (PLF) strategy to introduce two-tier systems.

Hundreds of parents attended a meeting he organised and soon afterwards, the ‘Three Cheers for Three Tiers’ campaign was launched. Although changes took place in other parts of the county, they did not happen in Morpeth.

He said that the strong bond between all the schools in the Morpeth partnership meant there were no major divisions and problems during the process.

Of the process to bring Chantry, Newminster and KEVI closer together, Mr Lawrence said: “In November 2003, I set up a meeting with a Department for Education and Skills official about the government’s hard federation proposals (one governing body for multiple schools), which were in their early stages.

“This was the catalyst for introducing such an arrangement in Morpeth, although because of the PLF it wasn’t until 2008 until we could discuss the details and it came into place in 2009.

“When the new government introduced converter academies in 2010, we were already in a good position to make this next step.”

He was executive headteacher of Chantry and Newminster for three years.