Meet the principal of one of Ipswich’s biggest schools

Helen Winn, principal of Ipswich Academy. Picture: ANDREW PAPWORTH

Helen Winn, principal of Ipswich Academy. Picture: ANDREW PAPWORTH


She has been praised for how her “clear and ambitious vision” has transformed one of Ipswich’s largest schools from a struggling academy into one of the town’s biggest success stories. But who is Helen Winn, Ipswich Academy’s principal?

Helen Winn, principal of Ipswich Academy. Picture: ANDREW PAPWORTHHelen Winn, principal of Ipswich Academy. Picture: ANDREW PAPWORTH

Born in the north-east of England, Mrs Winn always knew what she wanted to do in life and qualified as a teacher after leaving university.

However she has not followed the conventional route, taking a spell out of teaching to work in a completely different sector before returning with a new mindset.

"I always wanted to be a teacher, mainly because I had a real drive to make a difference to people's lives and felt that was the area I could do that best," Mrs Winn said.

She was clearly marked out as leadership material early on - just three years after starting her career in Essex, she became assistant headteacher at a secondary modern.

Ipswich Academy in Brazier's Wood Road Picture: ANDREW PAPWORTHIpswich Academy in Brazier's Wood Road Picture: ANDREW PAPWORTH

She returned to the north-east for another assistant headteacher role and then a deputy principal job in Tyneside, where she would stay for six years.

But in a big departure from her life's vocation, she quit teaching in 2007 to become a consultant in the construction sector, helping firms to bid for new contracts.

Although she had originally taken up the role with a view to returning to teaching, she was so satisfied with her new life that it looked like she might never set foot in a school again.

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That was until she was approached to do consultancy at Ipswich Academy when it opened in 2011.

She had never been to Ipswich before but said: "There was really something about Ipswich Academy that really made me want to come back.

"I just felt an immediate connection. I'd been in lots of other schools but there was just something special which made me feel I wanted to work here."

After three years as a consultant, she was appointed as associate principal and relocated to Suffolk in January 2014, before becoming first interim principal and then permanent principal in 2017.

She has clearly made a difference - the school, which had long-running problems with achievement and pupils' behaviour, has now been "transformed" into an academy which provides high-quality education, education regulator Ofsted has said.

With her time in the construction sector, Mrs Winn has a different experience than many life-long teachers.

However she believes she is all the better for it.

"Leadership and management convention was something I was really familiar with," she said.

"However I wanted to see if there was a different way of doing leading and managing within education and I thought being in a completely different industry would help me see things in a different way.

"A lot of those things have helped me shape my own leadership."

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