Jane Woakes, Headteacher 2008-2014

St. Kenelm's C.E. Primary School, Romsley
Centenary Celebrations
1915 – 2015

Memories of Mrs Jane Woakes - Headteacher from 2008 to 2014


From my first visit to St. Kenelm's in the Spring Term of 2014, I knew that it was exactly the school I would like lead in my first headship and was delighted when I was offered the role. It is quite a daunting task to become a headteacher of a school with well-established staff and a great history of successful education. I needn't have worried though, as there was so much support from the teachers, governors and wider school community. Ruth (and Stuart) Harper and the other members of the governing body guided me through the complexities of governor meetings and Den Finnie was a fantastic Deputy Head whose knowledge of the school really helped me to understand the school and its community and, therefore, establish our way forward. There was much support from the Church – first from Rev. Georgina, then Rev. Katrin and finally Rev. Dominic. As this was the first Church school I had worked in, this guidance was invaluable.

During my time at St. Kenelm's we continued to grow. When I left we had over 200 pupils. We were constantly looking for additional learning spaces and we tinkered with changing a couple of cloakrooms into workspaces. A major blow came when the Fire Service deemed that the school hall was too small under safety standards to accommodate more than 100. This meant we could no longer have a whole school assembly or invite parents in to share our wonderful performances. Obviously, as a small, church and village school, not being able to have all the school community together was unacceptable to us. The Parish Hall came to our rescue for a few months and we walked the children down on a number of occasions to use the facilities there. However, this was a temporary measure. Eventually, after much planning, we were able to extend the school hall so that once again we were able to all be together regularly. I was very grateful to Stuart Harper and Paul Share who spent many hours helping to sort the details of this extensive project.

I know that it will be mentioned by others, but what I wasn't prepared for was the snow! We had a system by which we made a call on whether we needed to close the school in severe weather. Living in Kidderminster, I was a little too far out to judge this severity and so would ring Chris Grove (cleaner/dinner lady/TA etc.) who lived in Hunnington and Carl Twomlow (caretaker) who lived at the top of the hill. Early one morning after a predicted snow fall I looked out of my window to see a little drizzle – no snow at all. I texted Chris just to ascertain the state of play in Romsley. She said it was 'real bad' and was still coming down fast. Carl said he was going to go out to just check the main road. I couldn't believe that it was bad enough to close the school based on the rain that was present in Kidderminster and so decided to set out early to see for myself. All was well until I reached the Bell Pub and I suddenly found myself in the Alps! It was incredible. Cars and buses abandoned on the road and what can only be described as blizzard conditions. Needless to say had to close the school (I think I may have seen a slightly smug grin from Chris as she sat manning the phone for me). None of the other schools in our pyramid had to close and neither did they believe that it could have been that bad in Romsley. However, if you live in Romsley you will know exactly what I am talking about. I did invest in snow chains and skiwear following this experience and started to listen a little more carefully to the staff who lived near the school!

Over the six years I was at St. Kenelm's, schools continued to be inundated with constant changes and demands from the powers that be. Some of these were good, some not so. I feel that what we were able to achieve was a good balance of managing these changes but at the same time holding on to what St.Kenelm's has always been about – providing the children with the opportunity to develop academically, socially, emotionally and spiritually whilst feeling a real sense of belonging and community and also having an awful lot of fun! I don't think there were many days when I wasn't laughing about something!

It was a real privilege to have worked with some truly fabulous staff, governors, parents and, of course, children – which of course is what it is all about. The ethos of St. Kenelm's is so deeply embedded I am sure that it will endure the next wave of educational reform and continue to be what it always has been – a really happy place to work, learn and play.


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