Popular teacher retires after 39 years as school closes

Skerton High teacher Paul Clark.
Skerton High teacher Paul Clark.

Popular and long-serving Skerton High School English teacher Paul Clark has retired – on the same day the school closed its doors for the last time officially as Skerton High.

Although the school will remain open with a small number of teachers to allow a cohort of Year 11 pupils to complete their exams, Mr Clark finally decided to retire after almost 40 years’ service to the school.

In a final assembly, he said that he had been asked many times by pupils about when he would retire.

His reply had always been the same – “after you leave” – and as the last official Skerton High pupils were leaving he had decided that time had finally come.

He went on tell the pupils that after Christmas Day to a child the last day before the summer break is always the second best day of the year but to him this day was a particularly sad day as he really did not want to retire.

Mr Clark has taught in total for 42 years, initially in his native Liverpool. 39 of those teaching years were spent at Skerton, starting in 1975.

He has taught thousands of pupils, including two or three generations of many local families and out lasting at least nine headteachers.

He served as head of the English department for the majority of those years, only stepping down in recent times.

In a speech to an audience of colleagues and to his surprise, his daughter, who had been especially invited, Mr Clark described how when he first arrived Skerton High was an oversubscribed school with 900 pupils and eight or nine English teachers.

He went on to say that he had never been happier than when he was in his classroom with a class of pupils, book in hand.

His speech was greeted with a long standing ovation by his peers.

Mr Clark received many accolades from his colleagues in an emotional staff leaving event and among his leaving gifts was a book of memories and tributes from friends, colleagues, parents and pupils.

In February, when inspectors visited the school and decided that the school was ready to come out of its Ofsted category, Mr Clark’s teaching was chosen to be observed and was judged as outstanding.

Deputy head Lyndon Day said: “Any pupil who has been taught by Mr Clark will know that his lessons are of the traditional variety, but they also know that they are being taught extremely well.

“In all my years of teaching I have never observed a teacher maintain such a consistently high level of teaching over so many years.

“His contribution to making a difference to the lives of pupils, in my opinion is unprecedented.

“We wish him a deserved long and happy retirement.”

As those who know him would have expected, Mr Clark insisted on teaching “proper English lessons” even on the very the last day.

His very last lesson was attended by many of the teaching assistants who have been in his lessons over the years.

At the end of term many other members of staff left the school, with just 14 staff in total remaining on site next year.

Many employees have been successful in obtaining further employment although there are a number who have unfortunately been made redundant.

Chair of governors, Susan Willoughby, thanked the staff for all their hard work and the impact they have made with some of the most vulnerable pupils in the district.

Another long-serving member of staff, Elizabeth Worsley, the school business manager, also retires this summer after 20 years working at the school.

She has served the school in many roles including the headteacher’s ppersonal assistant, financial manager and the staff’s main personnel resource.

Head Chris Snell recognised her immense role as the “glue that held the school together” before wishing her a happy retirement.

She is currently overseeing the closure of the school and its transition to the Chadwick Centre and Medical School before taking a well-deserved break.

The school has taken extra steps to “beef up” security over the summer with 24/7 security.

Mr Day, who will remain in charge of the remaining Year 11 pupils, said: “I hoped that this wouldn’t be needed but the building needed to be safeguarded to ensure that the pupils who have already had their final years disturbed can complete their education without further disruption.”

The school will be open as normal on August 21 at 10am for GCSE results when the school ironically is hoping for its best results in many years and on September 8 to start the new school year.