For many of you reading this, you may not know who I am or may not have come across my name but since September 2018, I have had the huge honour of being the Diocesan Director of Education for the Hereford Diocese. I along with my team have oversight of all 78 Church of England schools across the diocese. I have loved this job.
I began my career in teaching over 25 years ago and worked my way up through the profession before being appointed to my first headship in 2003. When I joined the diocese team nearly five years ago, I initially remained as the Executive Headteacher at St Paul’s CE Primary School, Hereford although Liz Vautier-Thomas and the rest of the senior leadership team took much of the leadership responsibility and burden, continuing to run the school brilliantly while I began to fathom how a diocese worked. In January 2019, when I became the CEO for the Diocesan Multi-Academy Trust I then began the task of trying to work out how a multi-academy trust worked. Since then, I have been both DDE and CEO, but like all things in Education we never stay still for long and this is about to change again.
In my four and a half years since taking up the role of CEO for the DHMAT, the trust has transformed significantly and, although there is always more to be done, it is flourishing. We are delighted that five new primary schools will be joining our trust next term. Two of these are Shropshire schools (Lydbury North and Onny CE Primary Schools) and three are Herefordshire schools (Whitchurch CE Primary School, Weston-under-Penyard CE Primary and Goodrich CE Primary). We expect many more to join this collaborative family as the rest of the decade continues to turn.
In light of the growing trust and increasing numbers of schools wishing to join, it has been made clear that a condition of Regional Director approval is for the trust to have a full-time Chief Executive. We (my colleagues in the DHMAT working with the diocesan team) have therefore decided that now is the time to begin to ‘decouple’ (separate) the DDE and trust CEO roles. So I am taking the next leap of faith and will be stepping down as the DDE for the Diocese of Hereford at Christmas time (or thereabouts), but will continue to work as the Chief Executive of the Diocesan trust for (hopefully) many years to come.
In the five years as DDE, I’ve got to know and work with many of the DDEs from other dioceses and it has been great to be the voice of Hereford Diocese, from time to time at national meetings. It is always useful to remind people that, although a small diocese in many ways, we have had more Bishops of Hereford than there have been in Canterbury. Not that it is a competition of anything…or more importantly that we know a thing or two about education in rural areas that do not have a large urban metropolis (unless you count Ludlow!).
I have a few more months to go as DDE but I have been sharing this message gradually starting a few weeks ago with school leaders and colleagues so you may already have heard this message. We have already begun the process to seek new leadership for education within the Diocese of Hereford. The job advert appeared this week.
I am sure there will be many more goodbyes to come but I just wanted to say for the record how very grateful I am to the education team I work with. They have a very rare set of skills (I hope I haven’t just made them sound like Liam Neeson). I work especially closely with Mark, Toni and Sian and they do a huge amount within a relatively small number of waking hours day to day. They will continue to serve schools across the diocese under new leadership. Senior Diocesan Staff are wonderful to work with too. I am especially grateful to Sam Pratley our Diocesan Secretary (probably still the youngest in England) who has been a huge part of the education landscape in our diocese alongside a myriad of other responsibilities. The Ven Fiona Gibson is an excellent and dedicated Chair of our Diocesan Board of Education and gives hours and hours to the work of education, also alongside the smorgasbord of other responsibilities she carries as Archdeacon of Ludlow. In Bishop Richard, we have an outstanding theologian and true good shepherd, who takes a huge interest in all educational matters, even when he is very busy, with the coronation or other national duties. I rely hugely on support and guidance from Sam and Fiona and Bishop Richard, and I wanted to say thank you for all that support they have given me, so it’s on the record.
I have said many times at Bishop’s Staff and in other parts of the diocesan structure, that I have not yet found another diocese that comes close to the Diocese of Hereford. Every corner of it, from Ironbridge to Ivington, Whitchurch to Worthern, Longden to Ledbury, Hanwood to Hereford, has wonderful qualities, churches and especially 78, dedicated, distinctive and devoted Church of England schools who serve their communities, every day from the first day of September to the end of the summer term, each and every year.
I don’t mean this to be a sentimental message at all. I’m not really going anywhere, and nothing much will change until the end of this year, the way forward is emerging and there will be a natural passing of the baton to the next DDE.
Lastly I just wanted to say a very special thank you to all our teachers and staff for everything they do in support of schools, at every level in schools across the diocese. The work to keep our schools as places of sanctuary for every child and young person who crosses the threshold is vitally important and will be, for many, life changing.
I pray for God’s continued blessing on all those children and young people as they reach the end of another academic year.. I pray also for the staff in schools who support them so skilfully and make all the difference each and every day. Amen
Yours in faith,
Andrew Teale, DDE