Emotional send off for headteacher who oversaw school’s rise from ashes of devastating fire
PUBLISHED: 06:30 24 October 2020
Seeing his school burn to the ground and overseeing its rise from the ashes almost four times the size - being headteacher has been both eventful and rewarding for Tim Lawes.
The retirement of the inspirational head at Catton Grove Primary after 21 years in charge was marked with an emotional day of celebration on the last day before half-term, including both staff and pupils in fancy dress.
Youngsters acted out special scenes based on memorable events and sang a specially composed new school anthem, the framed lyrics to which were signed by the pupils and presented to Mr Lawes.
There was also a video message from his daughter Sophie, who previously worked at the school and is now an assistant headteacher in London. His son, Jonny, is also a teacher in Georgia, proving a love of education runs in the family.
Having been appointed in 1999 his time in charge of the Norwich school has coincided with a huge period of change.
Two years after taking charge the school suffered a devastating fire during the summer holidays. Later, he oversaw the amalgamation of infants and middle schools and a big rise in pupil numbers.
All the while the school has achieved good Ofsted reports despite pupils coming from some of the city’s most challenged communities.
He said: “When I came here it was a middle school with just over 200 kids and we are now probably Norfolk’s largest primary school with over 750. It has been a real change.
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“When we had the fire in 2001 which burnt the place down we had temporary accommodation for 18 months and watched the school being built up again around us.
“Then in 2007 when we amalgamated for the two tier system we had another building programme that finished in 2014, then more building because we started to increase the numbers.
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“Of the 21 years I have been here, for 15 the school has been physically being built, so we have had to cope with that as well as all the day to day learning.
“But you have to hold fast to our principles and take the pressure on your shoulders so everyone else can get on with what they’re good at and what really matters - what goes on in the classroom.”
The school was at the heart of the community, he said, so much so that year three teacher Luka Goodfield is a former pupil.
He added: “In many cases I’ve taught them in the past, and in some cases taught their grandchildren.
“That sense of continuity has really helped because when I came here they’d had four heads in two years. It was a very unstable situation.”
Catherine Lorne, previously deputy head, who will take up the post of headteacher from November after half-term, has actually worked at Catton Grove a year longer than Mr Lawes.
She recalled: “I am the only teacher who hasn’t been employed by him. I became deputy just before the fire happened and that is one way to cement a partnership, in a crisis. Since then we have been on a rollercoaster of a ride.
“The whole school and the whole community has been on a journey. This is a special place. And when a leader stays for 21 years like Mr Lawes has, they have had enough time to really work with a team of people to produce the kind of culture in a school that even when individuals go that culture keeps thriving.”
“Kids never really change,” said Mr Lawes. “When I first started here I think they’d had a pretty rough deal for quite a long time.
“Our moral purpose is to ensure what we do brings out the absolute best in our kids because a lot of them don’t have a great deal. We want to make sure whatever we do gives them the best opportunities they can get.
“That’s what makes education such a fulfilling job and I have been in a very privileged position where I could make that happen.”
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