Former Ranelagh Primary School headteacher Diane Ekins reflects on 12 years leading the school after retirement
PUBLISHED: 08:07 25 January 2018
After 12 years at the helm of Ipswich’s Ranelagh Primary School, Diane Ekins has called time on her headteaching career. But with a busy 2018 planned, it is far from retirement, she tells Jason Noble.
“I am definitely not retiring – I’m leaving education for a new opportunity and new challenge.”
With the last 12 years of her life having been dedicated to leading Ranelagh Primary School in Ipswich, Diane Ekins is looking forward to a well-earned break.
But as her words above attest, she is continuing to look forward to pastures new – and other than a brief reflection with this paper on her time as headteacher, she is looking ever forwards to what can only be described as a packed 2018, including backpacking around the globe.
The 56-year-old joined the school in January 2005 as headteacher, after serving her first headship at Fairhaven Church of England Voluntary Aided Primary School in South Walsham, Norfolk from late 2000.
Keen to return to a town after her time in an isolated rural community, Ranelagh has been the scene of some of her finest achievements in education.
But while she is proud of her work at the school, it is the school’s pupils, parents and community she says she will miss the most.
“I will miss the children coming in, their enthusiasm for learning in the morning,” she says.
“If I open the gate the children are queuing and run to school – they want to learn.
“They are always coming and telling me, if I tell them a story or teach them something in assembly they will come to me with things that show they have taken on board what I have said – books or stories that link with my story. I will definitely miss that.”
But as much as the pupils, it is the parents in the community who Miss Ekins says are “so appreciative” of the work of the school that have made her time there so special.
“I have been really proud of what the people in Suffolk and Ipswich have given,” she says.
I have worked in inner London, I’ve worked in Basildon, I’ve worked in Southend, but this community is so supportive of school. They are respectful of what the school is giving their children and they want to support the school.”
With a dozen years at the school there are plenty of positive memories and proud moments, among them being the work to raise the children’s aspirations around the London Olympics, giving every Key Stage 2 child a chance to learn a musical instrument through Suffolk Music Service, and the centenary celebrations of the school.
She says: “I was here for the centenary and that was fabulous because we had so many people come back.
“Also, this building, this school seems to be special. People say ‘can I come in, I went to this school?’ they’re so proud of it.”
Among the most challenging moments was being given a ‘requires improvement’ Ofsted rating, but thanks to the dedication of staff and pupils and the unwavering support of the community, that difficult moment became a moment of pride when it was given a ‘good’ rating in November 2016.
In particular, Miss Ekins cites the inspectors’ comment, “leaders promote pupils’ spiritual, moral, social and cultural development effectively in preparing them to become enlightened citizens in 21st Century Britain,” as key.
“I don’t think often they write that on Ofsted reports, and that was something I was really proud of,” she adds. “That I have been able to lead the school in the values that I believe in and all the staff believe in, and that we have managed to keep all those values going through everything that has gone on. We didn’t lose sight of what we believe the children need in the school.”
On the last day of Winter term, the school held its traditional carol service, and a Victorian Day during the last weeks was also partly a celebration of her time in the school’s history.
“It sets my time in context,” she says. “Ranelagh itself is bigger than one person. I inherited a school with good behaviour and there is something special about Ranelagh that carries on as well.”
For 2018, Miss Ekins is looking forward to spending more time with her partner Granville – which, as befitting her early career working in schools in Norway and Kenya, includes a backpacking jaunt to Malta, as well as a role with the Church of England.
She adds: “It hasn’t felt right before but it feels right now.
“I believe there will be a role for me within the Church of England, but it’s what I’m called for and what other people think I’m called for as well. I want to spend more time with my partner and we just want to go on adventures together. We want to visit places we haven’t been to before.”
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