Harleston head calls time on 35-year career

Roger Walsh, head of Harleston primary school, retiring after 12 years. ANL-151216-192419009
Roger Walsh, head of Harleston primary school, retiring after 12 years. ANL-151216-192419009

A south Norfolk headteacher who is retiring after twelve-and-a-half-years at the helm says his school is well-placed to achieve the ‘holy grail’ — an ‘Outstanding’ rating from Ofsted.

Roger Walsh, who turned 57 at the weekend and has spent 35 years in the teaching profession, took over at Harleston Primary School in 2003, and will retire this week. His wife, Linda, head of school at Stradbroke Primary, will also be retiring.

I’ve been a headteacher in the Waveney Valley for 19 years now and have been privileged to work at three fantastic schools in that time

Roger Walsh

Lisa Blowfield, current headteacher at Tacolneston and Morley primary schools, will take over from Mr Walsh in April.

“It does feel great,” he said. “It feels a little bit surreal.

“It feels quite strange, like it isn’t happening to me at the moment. I think it will set in over Christmas and particularly in January.

“It’s been an absolute pleasure. I think many people probably realise that being a headteacher is much more than just a job, it’s absolutely a vocation and I have dedicated a large part of my life to Harleston Primary School and indeed previous to this, Diss Junior and Earsham. I’ve been a headteacher in the Waveney Valley for 19 years now and have been privileged to work at three fantastic schools in that time,

“I’ve got very many happy memories. The overriding thing I want to recognise is that during that time all the schools I have led have been ‘Good’ schools.

“They have had strong community reputations, great reputations for good behaviour management but being fair and clear expectations of high standards.”

During the school’s most recent Ofsted inspection in Febrary 2014, it retained its ‘Good’ rating — with Mr Walsh telling the Diss Express at the time that “no stone would be left unturned” in their bid to achieve ‘Outstanding’ status.

“I still think we are in the position of being a ‘Good’ school but on the cusp of wanting to be ‘Outstanding’,” he explained.

“Being ‘Outstanding’ is a bit of a holy grail and is really not a straight forward thing to achieve, to up a gear and get to it from ‘Good’.

“We are still fighting hard. We have got the team who are ready to do it. We have got the attitude and the positivity in our pupils to move on and I think it is one of those things where somebody else comes in, with a slightly different look at it.

“I’m sure Lisa will be well-placed to move the school forward in a positive way. I wish her all the best.”

Mr Walsh, a part-time ornithologist, will spend the first part of his retirement on a one-month expedition to Gambia to study European migrant birds.

He is involved in a variety of schemes, including the recently-launched Swift Action Harleston project, while he hopes to make more trips to the Etihad Stadium as a self-confessed lifelong Manchester City fan.

Born in Wigan, Mr Walsh trained to be a teacher in the North East, began teaching in Derby, and landed his first role in East Anglia at Southwold Primary School in 1984.

In 1989 he joined Aldeburgh Primary School, leaving in 1997 to start at Earsham Primary.

A three year stint followed, before taking over at Diss Junior School until 2003.