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Andy Bids Farewell

The first time Andy Whittle visited Hethersett Middle School, he fell in love with it.  

Ten years later Andy is preparing to retire as Head of what is now Hethersett Junior School. 

“I became Head at Easter 2004 and have thoroughly enjoyed my time at the school. I knew on my first visit that it was a place where I would fit in and I am proud of what I believe I have achieved over the 10 years,” he said. 

Andy came to the school after 18 months as Deputy Head at Loddon Junior School and over the past decade has overseen the transformation of the Hethersett school from a Middle to a Junior and has also fostered excellent relationships with the local community – notably in the field of creating a lasting Olympic Legacy. 

He was born in Bolton and gained a degree from Warwick University before taking up teaching at primary schools in the Tooting area of London. He was a deputy head in Horsham, Sussex, for over 10 years before moving with his partner Sue to Norfolk. 

“We had always wanted to be close to the sea and when I taught in London I used to bring children to the Norfolk Broads and thought what a lovely place Norfolk was.” 

After his short sojourn in Loddon, Andy moved to Hethersett where he revelled in what he calls “a very strong community spirit.” 

“When I took over at Hethersett my aims were to keep the school popular and work as part of the community and I have enjoyed my ten years despite the constant change.” 

That change included overseeing the reversion to Junior School status that included a cut in staffing levels and forging a closer relationship with Hethersett Woodside Infants and Junior School. 

As well as teaching and caring for almost 1,000 children during his time at Hethersett, Andy has seen a big turnover of staff brought about by retirements and numerous promotions. 

“Many teachers have gained promotion after working at Hethersett. Today we have a good young and enthusiastic staff ready to move the school forward. 

Andy believes at the age of 57 that it is the right time for him to retire, however. “I want to leave the profession whilst I am still in good health and can enjoy an active retirement. The Spanish have a word for retirement which is Jubilacion and that seems to be a very apt word for the way I am approaching things. I can honestly say that I leave without any regrets and it is the right time for me to retire. I hope that people will say that I always acted with integrity and what you see is what you get. I really don’t think that I have changed over the 10 years in that respect.” 

He does have a criticism, however, of what is going on in education at a national level:

“It is the first time in my 36 years as a teacher that I haven’t been able to see what the Secretary of State’s vision for the future of education is. In the past I haven’t always agreed with them, but they have always been able to articulate their visions and I don’t think that is the case with Michael Gove.” 

Over the years Andy has led the school into a number of positive relationships with schools throughout Europe with teacher and pupil exchanges: 

“I am sure the European links will continue. It is important for children to realise that learning languages and understanding other cultures is very important. I also believe I have been able to help in recruiting staff to the school who are creative practitioners who can bring the curriculum alive. I hope I have also created an environment where all staff are valued and part of a team. I will miss the daily inter-action with the children and watching them develop and how they can make you laugh even when you aren’t feeling 100 per cent. No two days have ever been the same.” 

Andy looks back with pleasure on the number of youngsters who are now making a success with successful careers in the armed forces, in industry and in gaining university degrees: 

“I have loved it when pupils have kept in touch or parents have told me what their sons and daughters are doing. That has been hugely rewarding.” 

One of Andy’s other successes has been improving and enhancing the outdoor environment with the addition of play and fitness equipment. 

He has also helped to turn the school into an environmentally friendly place with the addition of double glazing for classrooms and a £10,000 scheme to build 40 solar panels which are already bringing in and saving money for the school. He also fully supported the community in its work towards and after the London 2012 Olympic Games. This included a visit to the school by the 1948 Olympic torch, a visit from the deputy chairman of the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games, Sir Keith Mills, and a visit by champion Paralympic swimmer and motivational speaker Chris Holmes. The school has also fully supported Hethersett’s award winning Open Weekend with swimming marathons in its pool and by providing facilities for the annual two mile village funrun. 

There is currently an Olympic Legacy display in the school hall which includes an original “Inspire a Generation” banner from the Olympic Park which was donated to the school by former pupil Oliver Armstrong. 

In his retirement Andy hopes to visit many friends and acquaintances from around the world and also indulge his loves of music – he plays guitar and clarinet - and skiing. 

The new head at the schools is Paul Parslow Williams who takes up his post after the Easter holidays. The end of the school year in July will also see the retirement of the current deputy head Richard Carter, who has been at Hethersett Junior School for almost 30 years.