Suffolk head retires after tragic year
VETERAN headteacher Martin Liddle has bowed out after a year tinged with tragedy.Mr Liddle readily admitted the death of pupil pals Dean Bloomfield and Scott Towler was his greatest challenge in 37 years of teaching.
VETERAN headteacher Martin Liddle has bowed out after a year tinged with tragedy.
Mr Liddle readily admitted the death of pupil pals Dean Bloomfield and Scott Towler was his greatest challenge in 37 years of teaching.
The Stoke High headteacher always planned to hang up the mortar board at the end of this school year.
Now he leaves a school with many strengths, but one that needed rebuilding in the immediate aftermath of the double tragedy.
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Mr Liddle said: "Clearly it was a challenging time for me and the school.
"The school responded very well with its support of the parents and the families – both funerals were exceptionally well supported.
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"It could have been anybody, but to lose two boys in the same year was unique and tremendously unfortunate."
Mr Liddle said money collected by pupils and staff would go towards a memorial in school – possibly a tree and a quiet sitting area in the grounds.
As well as recalling an immensely traumatic conclusion to his 20 years at Stoke High, Mr Liddle was able to dwell on many happier memories – some of them fresh in his mind.
Stoke's successful sports department topped all past achievements by winning the under-16 England schools championships.
And Mr Liddle is looking forward to a day out at Portman Road in August when the champions are honoured at Ipswich Town's first home game of the season.
The cup final at Highbury in May will live long in many memories, not least Mr Liddle's.
He said: "It was a great way to go – a real high point."
Stoke also enjoyed a very successful Ofsted inspection at the start of this year and a renewal of its investors in people award.
On the agenda for the near future is the long-awaited bid for specialist school status, hopefully in March.
Mr Liddle is happy to have left behind what he described as a "very successful school," but he had no intention of putting his life's work into Stoke when he arrived.
He said: "Everyone thought I was coming down because of the football.
"When I agreed the job in 1982 Bobby Robson was the manager and Mick Mills and Terry Butcher were the stars.
"By the time I arrived in 1983 they'd all left. But Suffolk gets into your blood. My family settled here far better than I could have expected and there was never any reason to leave."
Two decades later and Mr Liddle is making plans to teach his wife how to play golf and to indulge his passion for travelling.
But while he is very much looking forward to putting his feet up and pleasing himself, he is not leaving teaching without a few pangs of regret.
He said: "The thing I will miss is the committed family of teachers, pupils and parents working together – it's very strong here.
"And I'll miss the children – they keep you young."