Oliver Priestley, the new Head of St John’s C of E Primary School, Wellington, will be remembered as Deputy Head of Wellesley Park Primary School from 2009 to 2016 before moving to Willowdown Primary School after the sudden death of Nick Riddiough, Principal of Woolavington and Willowdown.
He succeeds Mary Clothier following her resignation after one year as Head of St John’s and expressed his “excitement at the challenge of coming to a school that is already a good school and trying to add value.”
Mr Priestley regards his experience as a member of the leadership team at Wellesley Park and as Acting Head at Willowdown in shaping the ideas he brings to St John’s. He puts developing ‘an inner thirst for learning’ in his pupils as one of his highest priorities. He said, “There is a difficult climate in terms of pressures upon children at the moment. My challenge is to ensure they develop as human beings and leave us with a desire to learn – regardless of their interests whether practical, musical, sporting or outside. If they have an inner thirst for learning they will thrive in life.” He added, “Our job is to manage the needs of children, to make sure they get what they need to help them through school.”
Mr Priestley acknowledged the strength of St John’s as a community “passionate about the children doing well” and paid tribute to the standards set by former Head Gareth Jones who left in 2017. He said, “Gareth got the best out of a very good staff and my challenge is to continue that. Maintaining this school’s heritage is a major pull for me. When you walk through the doors here the ethos is just fantastic. The sense of caring is so very clear and the values are deeply entrenched. The children are proud of this school. I need to learn from the successes of the past and build on them to continue the journey of the school so that it is a beacon in this town.”
Asked about the response he has received from parents he said, “They have been very supportive. This is a partnership and if the partnership isn’t there you won’t have the same success for the pupils.” He has also welcomed new teachers, two of whom have replaced Karen Turnbull and Halina Bayfield who have moved to senior positions at Beech Grove Primary School.
Mr Priestley said, “These are exciting times for children in Wellington. If all the Heads work together we can collaborate and support one another, leading to a smooth transition to Court Fields.”