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Thurston Community College principal Helen Wilson prepares for 'exciting new chapter' as she departs after 16 years




It is the end of an era for a Suffolk secondary school as its principal bids farewell after 16 years in the role.

Helen Wilson, 55, is stepping down as leader of Thurston Community College after overseeing the education of 5,500 pupils.

She joined the school just over 19 years ago as vice-principal before taking the top job in 2005 and has been sharing her favourite quote from A A Milne as her final day approaches – ‘how lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard’.

Helen Wilson, principal at Thurston Community College for 16 years, is leaving at the end of term. Picture: Mark Westley
Helen Wilson, principal at Thurston Community College for 16 years, is leaving at the end of term. Picture: Mark Westley

Helen said it was always her aim to retire as a headteacher when she reached the age of 55 and was moving to Sidmouth in Devon, where she will work part time as a chemistry teacher at Exeter School but is keeping her Suffolk links as she continues her role as director of secondary at the Waveney Valley Academies Trust.

“I’m excited - it’s a new chapter,” she said.

I’ve had an amazing career, I’ve loved being a headteacher and I feel like I’m going out on a high really, despite Covid. It’s been lovely.

Highlighting the pride she felt in the school’s collective efforts to ‘shape the lives of so many young people over the years’, she noted the college had never been less than good in any category in any Ofsted inspection during her leadership and never had a budget deficit.

“I’ve always seen my job as looking after the budget and looking after the staff and making sure they’ve got promotion opportunities,” said Helen.

Her proudest moments though are the educational opportunities the school has offered to students.

She said: “It isn’t just about exam outcomes, it’s about the education of the person to leave school as happy, confident and capable learners who can go on into the world to be great.”

Helen joined the school just over 19 years ago as vice-principal before taking the top job in 2005. Picture: Mark Westley
Helen joined the school just over 19 years ago as vice-principal before taking the top job in 2005. Picture: Mark Westley

Helen began her 32 years in teaching as a science and PE teacher at Saffron Walden County High School before joining Comberton Village College, in Cambridgeshire, where she was head of physics and assistant principal.

After a busy career, she plans to spend more time pursuing hobbies and, inspired by book The Salt Path, wants to embark on the 630 mile South West Coast Path.

Helen also plans to take up paddle boarding and is a keen cyclist.

Her successor is Nicki Mattin, who is principal at Spires Academy, in Canterbury.

She thanked everyone who supported her and the school through the years.

“I’ve always said we’re Thurston Community College for a reason,” she added.

“We do see ourselves as being in the heart of the community.

“I’ve really enjoyed working with our neighbours and friends within the community and I thank them for their support.”

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