'Incredibly successful' Saffron Walden secondary school teacher retires

PUBLISHED: 18:21 28 January 2015 | UPDATED: 18:21 28 January 2015

Headteacher John Harley is retiring from Saffron Walden County High School this December, after almost thirteen years.

Headteacher John Harley is retiring from Saffron Walden County High School this December, after almost thirteen years.

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A headteacher who transformed his secondary school into one of the highest-achieving comprehensives in the country is to step down after 12 years in the role.

A headteacher who transformed his secondary school into one of the highest-achieving comprehensives in the country is to step down after 12 years in the role.

John Hartley, whose career highlights include the 2012 Ofsted recognition of the school as ‘Outstanding’ as well as the culmination of the world-class concert venue Saffron Hall in 2013, announced to students at Saffron Walden County High School on Tuesday that he will be retiring in December, at the end of the autumn term.

“When that time comes it’s going to be a huge – and probably quite emotional – wrench to say goodbye to this marvellous school,” he told pupils. “I will have had 12 fantastic years leading a school community of such wonderful students, and staff of course!”

Mr Hartley, who turns 60 this year, came to his Saffron Walden role in 2003, having worked as headteacher at Notley High School & Braintree Sixth Form.

Parents and governors have this week paid tribute to what Mr Hartley had achieved during his time in charge of the County High.

“He has been an incredibly successful headteacher and we are very sorry that he will be going,”

said Mark Hayes, chair of Saffron Academy Trust (SAT), an organisation led by Mr Harley, which aims to nurture academic and individual achievement at SWCHS, as well as Alec Hunter Academy in Braintree.

“Under his leadership the school has become one of the best comprehensives in the country,” Mr Hayes told the Reporter.

“John has always had a real interest in enabling every pupil to achieve their very best.

“He’s also a very open-minded head, in terms of being willing to take on things that are not strictly about academic achievement, such as Saffron Hall and Saffron Screen. Saffron Hall has been a wonderful opportunity for pupils, and John played a very significant part in making that happen.”

The 760-seat Saffron Hall was funded by an anonymous donation of £10m and now hosts world-class concerts at the weekends, while it is used by the school during the week.

Joe Higham from Littlebury, whose 14-year-old daughter Olive is in Year 9 at the school, told the Reporter: “Mr Hartley’s enthusiasm for the school has been very marked. From an educational point of view, the kids, including my daughter, really respect what he’s done.

“He has put in a very, very 
effective management structure, and the members of staff have a great awareness of what all the kids are going through.

“Every staff member is always passionate about what the kids do, they want the kids to do really well, and that kind of enthusiasm in such a big school comes from the top.

“It’s been a real pleasure to have my child there.”

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