Often when we introduce a new Headteacher at one of our schools, it will be a brand-new name, an unfamiliar face that children, parents and staff will need to get to know. This is certainly not the case with St Faith Prep’s incoming Head, Helen Coombs. Helen has been at the beating heart of the school for over 20 years, actively championing and delivering many of the structures that make St Faith’s such an amazing place to learn and grow. She has been Lawrence Groves’ right arm since he arrived back in 2012, and their shared vision is key to the school’s success.
Helen joined in the Nursery, has taught throughout the school, is a qualified Special Educational Needs Co-Ordinator, and instigated the school’s PSHE (Personal, Social, Health and Economic) programme. A particular area of interest is the transition from Early Years to Year 1, those critical first steps in education that lay the foundation for confident and enthusiastic learning. But it was when she was offered the opportunity to develop and organise a curriculum that would inspire and challenge the children, broadening their outlook and building key skills, that her strengths really came to the fore. This is the invisible part of an outstanding school. The structures and planning that allow the magic in the classroom, and beyond, to happen. Her children went to school here and now her grandchild is a pupil.
Beyond St Faith’s, Helen was one of the first to take advantage of the Wishford Leadership Programme, which identifies and develops talented staff members. Subsequently she has delivered training to aspiring leaders within the Group, and has shared the developments instigated at St Faith’s with other Heads. She is also involved with the governance visits across our schools alongside group Director of Education, Paul Easterbrook, and has taken the opportunity to explore how other schools structure their curriculums.
When asked about her impact on St Faith’s, Helen is quick to direct credit away from herself and towards her fellow staff. ‘They are amazing,’ she says. ‘It’s their passion for education that feeds enthusiasm in the children. No one slips through the net. I don’t think people realise what lies beyond our gate. But people come across the threshold and the school just opens up. It’s like a TARDIS of wonderfulness,’ she laughs.
With Helen at the helm, are changes afoot?
‘Yes, but that’s nothing new. We have always been very open to change. Everyone is willing to adapt and grow, take on new ideas. There’s no room for stopping at St Faith’s. Reflection and evaluation are key to ensuring you continue to provide outstanding education.’
Outgoing Head Lawrence Groves is certainly in no doubt that he is leaving the school in a safe and talented pair of hands. “Helen already commands the love, respect and admiration of the St Faith’s family. I have absolute faith that she will lead the school to even greater successes in the coming years. I’m excited to see what she will achieve.’
And Helen, how does she feel about this step into Headship?
‘Lawrence has been an incredible Head and a great mentor. He will be a hard act to follow! But we will continue to make it brilliant. The school is the best it’s ever been for the children who come here. The academic potential is outstanding. And I am also looking forward to modelling a woman in a leadership position for our children. I have a good deal to aspire to and I am looking forward to the challenge!’