A RESPECTED headteacher, who has been at the heart of the biggest change in Burnley’s education system in decades, is to leave the town for a new challenge in Athens.
Mr Stuart Smith, the headteacher of Thomas Whitham Sixth Form College, has been confirmed as the new head of St Catherine’s British School in the Greek capital.
Mr Smith was heavily involved in the Building Schools for the Future programme which completely altered the make-up of Burnley’s secondary schools. The closure of the town schools and the opening of new buildings was partly in response to Burnley’s falling secondary school population.
Mr Smith, who came to Burnley as headteacher at the former Habergham High School in 2002, was appointed head of the new Thomas Whitham Sixth Form at the Burnley Campus in Barden Lane.
The father-of-three also worked closely with architects on the design for the new building.
He said: “To engage actively with colleagues and architects to put together the ideal learning environment was an exciting challenge. I am leaving with a heavy heart but excited about the new challenge ahead. After 11 happy years in Burnley I felt I needed a new challenge, but there was no way I was going to leave what we have here for simply another headteacher post. It had to be something special. Moving to Greece will be a professional and personal challenge, but our achievement here is something of which we should be proud.”
Accompanying Mr Smith to Greece will be his wife Angela who works as a learning support mentor in Preston, where the couple will keep their home.
Their sons Graeme, Niall and Christopher who will remain in this country, are equally excited about their parents’ new adventure.
Mr Smith, who grew up in Easingwold, Yorkshire, studied history at Worcester College, Oxford, and later taught for a year in Oxfordshire before moving to Morecambe in 1982.
He has remained in Lancashire ever since, and came to Burnley from Haslingden High School.
He added: “St Catherine’s is an age three to 19 school, and so I think my experience of working at the Burnley Campus where we share the site with a nursery and primary school, among others, helped me secure the job. A lot of the pupils are children of ex-pats, but around half are Greek.
“Learning the language will be a challenge although the school delivers the whole curriculum in English. I introduced a classical civilisation A-Level to Burnley so obviously the lure of Athens and its history was also a great pull.”
Mr Smith, who will move to Greece in the summer, added that he sees a positive future for education in Burnley and Thomas Whitham in particular. “BSF presented many challenges and there have been great difficulties along the way but we are now seeing improvements in student outcomes and a more positive outlook for the future.
“I will miss Burnley very much. The town and its people will always be close to my heart.”