York headteacher to step down after 14 years

29 Jan 2021 @ 5.37 pm
| News

One of York’s most high-profile headteachers is to step down after 14 years.

John Tomsett, Huntington School’s head since 2007, will leave at the end of this school year.

He is going to continue with his writing and speaking engagements, as well as develop his educational consultancy work.

John said: “I have mixed feelings at leaving the job and school I love, but it is important to act when your intuition tells you it is the right time to go.

“I have worked with some tremendous students and colleagues and leave with wonderful memories of my time at Huntington. It really is a very special place to learn and work.”

New phase

John Tomsett at this year’s A level results day

John thanked Huntington’s governors for their “unstinting support”.

“I have been a teacher for 33 years and a headteacher for 18, and it is the moment to begin the next phase of my life,” he said.

“I want to spend more time helping my two sons find their way in the world and to support my wife who will continue her career in teaching.

“And I am looking forward to having some time for my writing and fishing.

“I am excited about the future and feel sure that Huntington will continue to thrive under new leadership.”

Chair of governors Joanne Olsen said: “Huntington School’s governing body would like to thank John for his hard work, commitment and dedication to the staff and students at our school.

“John has developed the school with the addition of the Research School and in November 2017 the school was rated as Outstanding by Ofsted.”

No new head – yet

In need of TLC… Huntington School, York. Photograph © Google Street View

Mrs Olsen said: “John has been highly successful in ensuring good outcomes for our students, but also growing great teachers and leaders during his time in post. We are sure that this has put the school in a great place to continue this work.

“John has led the school throughout the pandemic with a calm, efficient, focussed manner, supporting staff, students and parents to make the best of a challenging situation.

“We would also like to acknowledge the significant contribution John has made to education across the city in his leadership of the York Schools and Academies Board.   

“The governing body does not feel that recruiting a new headteacher during the current pandemic is a wise course of action. We are unlikely to attract the best possible field and it will be difficult to appoint someone remotely.

“Consequently, we have appointed Matt Smith, the current deputy headteacher, to step up as acting headteacher on a temporary basis, a role he has filled in the past.”

He will be acting head from 1 September 2021 to 31 August 2022, to provide the school “with stability and continuity in this climate of uncertainty” and offer a smooth transition.

“Mr Bruce will step up as acting deputy headteacher to fill Mr Smith’s current position for the same time period,” Mrs Olsen said.

“We hope that the worst of the pandemic will be over by this time next year and that in January 2022 we can advertise the headteacher post on a permanent basis, attracting a strong field from across the country.”

She added: “We have great faith in Matt Smith and the current school leadership team. We feel confident the school will continue to thrive.

“We are genuinely sad to see John leave for fresh woods and pastures new, and we wish him all the very best. He has dedicated the core years of his working life to Huntington and for that we are hugely grateful.”

Often in the headlines

During his time at Huntington, John Tomsett was also a national figure.

He co-founded the Headteachers’ Roundtable think tank, and was a regularly contributor to national news stories about education.

John has been a tireless campaigner for proper funding for schools, and has not shied away from challenging ministers and others in power.

He was featured in the York Press after rescuing a drowning man from the River Ouse in 2010.

He hit the headlines in 2018 when he was cleared of a charge of unacceptable professional conduct over a sexual relationship with a former pupil.

Last year he went on Sky News to accuse the then chief aide to the Prime Minister Dominic Cummings of ‘arrogance and contempt’ for apparently ignoring the lockdown rules – when John hadn’t been able to be with his mother when she died.

His education blog is very well read and he has written several books, on everything from improving mental health in schools to one of his great loves – fishing.