The end of April saw Richard Clark, a headteacher with the Olympus Academy Trust, say a sad farewell to children, parents and colleagues after choosing to take early retirement in order to pursue other interests.
Up to this point, Richard had been teaching for 30 years across Devon and South Gloucestershire, with exactly 20 of these years, to the day, serving as a local headteacher in Wick, Stoke Lodge and Patchway.
Richard remarked that, “Even though there have been many highs and lows during this time, for me, the highs definitely outweighed anything else.”
“Even on the most challenging days there was always something to take from it. Quite often a child would make you smile with something they said or had learnt that day. Often, they were so proud and excited to share some of their learning with you that they would be queueing at the door! This, by far, outweighed anything else that happened that day.”
When asked what he has most enjoyed about his time in schools, Richard said that he loved working with the children, families and staff in the Olympus Academy Trust and that he felt there was a real ‘family spirit’ across all of the schools.
“This became very apparent during the early days of the Covid pandemic when we worked as one team, across all of the schools, to ensure provision was made for key worker families as well as providing materials for those who had to stay home.” He added that “The Trust leadership and facilities at Bradley Stoke helped to ensure key worker families could operate as normal. We would use our minibuses to collect pupils on a daily basis from the local schools and then worked with teams of staff to ensure all the children were supported. It really showed what was achievable in a matter of hours when everyone worked as one.”
Richard said that he absolutely loved working alongside “some of the most amazing members of staff” in the education sector within our local schools.
“They are so committed and passionate about teaching and learning and often go over and beyond for our children and young people. I will certainly miss the comradeship that you gain from such committed and hard-working individuals.”
Speaking about leaving his current position, Richard explained that he is calling it a ‘new phase’ rather than retirement. After leaving his first job in a factory as an electronics engineer, he trained as a physical education teacher in Plymouth. Two of his favourite aspects of PE teaching were rugby and swimming coaching. He explained that he is currently returning to his roots as a swimming teacher at Winterbourne, viewing swimming as a vital life skill that can not only save lives, but can also be great for health and fitness throughout life.
Amongst his future plans, Richard is keen to set up a social enterprise project with a view to helping others in the local community to learn and develop their interest in ceramics and pottery, as well as their entrepreneurial skills.
Were there any regrets? “None,” he replied, “apart from having to call in sick for the first time in 30 years on my last day due to contracting Covid! I managed to miss the farewell assembly that the children and staff organised for me. However, I recently attended a re-run to make up for the one I missed, which I really appreciated. I have certainly felt privileged to have worked in education and hopefully have made a small difference for some.”
Dave Baker, CEO of Olympus Academy Trust, said that Richard would be a great loss to the education community locally as he had always been an advocate for community cohesion and partnership working. He added that Richard had always given his time, energy and expertise tirelessly and willingly everywhere he worked within the Trust. He added:
“I will miss Richard as I have worked with him in different roles for the entire 20 years of his headship, many of which have been in the local area where we now work and where Richard lives. I know that Richard will maintain his connections with us and we wish him well as he starts his next phase. I am extremely grateful to him for all that he has done in his time with the Trust.”
This article originally appeared in the May 2022 issue of the Bradley Stoke Journal magazine (on page 13).