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"I do not know how I will get through the last hour of my final assembly"

Published: 19 Mar 2012 06:00

After two decades at the helm of top-ranking Kendrick School, pupils will wave goodbye to the woman who led it, headteacher Marsha Elms. Chronicle reporter Tessa Watkins spoke to Mrs Elms in her final weeks at the school.

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THE headteacher of one of the best grammar schools in the country has revealed she will "desperately miss the best job in the world."

Marsha Elms has been the principal of Reading's Kendrick School for 19 years, during which time it has regularly topped the league tables and was ranked first nationally for GCSEs in a state school for the past two years.

But she announced last June that she had made the "difficult" decision to retire and now has just two weeks left in the post she has held for nearly two decades. She said: "I am dreading the last day. I do not know how I will emotionally manage to get through the last hour of my final assembly.

"I want to revisit the things that I have always taught the girls and read out poems and political speeches that have inspired me.

"I have always told them to break through that glass ceiling and that they can achieve anything they want to."

Mrs Elms, who joined the school in 1993, became a 'super head' five years ago when she took charge of Reading Girls' School, which was in special measures, under the title of executive headteacher.

She will remain a governor of Reading Girls and said: "I am so thrilled that the school recently achieved good in all categories and it is wonderful to leave knowing that I was a part of that journey."

Kendrick, which became an academy in February, has 700 pupils and will be led by current associate headteacher Christine Kattirtzi after Easter. Mrs Elms said: "One moment I am thrilled by the prospect of leaving because it means I no longer have to get up early, and the next I am worried about what I will do with all the time on my hands.

"It is a very scary time and I am so up and down, thinking have I made the right decision to retire? Am I crazy to turn my back on it, because this is absolutely the best job in the world - it's the best school, the best staff, the best girls, governors, parents - it is absolutely wonderful and I will miss it desperately."

Mrs Elms, who grew up in Tottenham, taught at Featherstone High School in Southall before moving to The Magna Carta School in Surrey, where she worked her way up the ranks to deputy headteacher, and has seen all sorts of changes in the profession since then. She said: "I still want to see the wow factor in lessons, with children engaged and engrossed and loving learning, and a formula for every lesson doesn't always leave room for this.

"For anyone going into teaching, I would say it can be the best, most satisfying job in the world. The opportunity to touch childen's lives is wonderful, but you must be prepared to work jolly hard, and always be optimistic - focus on the positives and banish the negatives, believe in yourself, have confidence and be prepared to make mistakes."

Mrs Elms - who was the first grammar school headteacher to be appointed a national leader of education - will not be turning her back on education completely, and plans to work for the Department for Education assessing bids for free schools. She said: "I am so relieved that I will still have the opportunity to wear my Armani suits!"

"To everyone at Kendrick, I would say it has been a privilege to work among them and I know how lucky I am to have had the opportunity.

"I hope the girls realise how lucky they are to get the education they do here. It has been an absolute joy and almost every day has been a win, so thank you - but I will warn the girls that I will still be watching!"

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