As soon as I walked in, I knew I wanted to work here - there was something special about the atmosphere, it seemed such a positive place,” says Helen Lennie.
That was 20 years ago and Mrs Lennie is now retiring as head teacher, confident that Rastrick High School is still a special place.
The pupil who approached her on her first day as deputy head back in 1993 and asked ‘Are you new?’ set the standard which she has tried to maintain over a fulfilling career at Rastrick.
“This example of friendly directness and interest in and concern for others typifies what I’ve since come to know and love about RHS students,” said Mrs Lennie.
Her ten years in post as only the second head teacher at RHS have been characterised by numerous changes in the education system and, some might say, plenty of interference in education from politicians. Riding the storm of change has not always been easy but keeping the interests of her students and staff has been at the heart of Mrs Lennie’s approach.
While planning for Rastrick High’s future, she has always had a keen understanding of the school’s rich heritage and its links with education in Rastrick that go back to the start of the 18th century.
“I believe in the three Es - excellence, expectations and enjoyment. The first two are important but above all I always wanted my pupils to enjoy school and being part of the Rastrick High School community.”
Mrs Lennie started her career in education as an English literature teacher and books, reading and the arts are still a passion. She trained and still lives in Greater Manchester and will not miss the daily commute over the Pennines on the M62.
“On a good day when there are no hold-ups the journey only takes 30 minutes and it’s useful thinking time but I must admit this winter has been quite a challenge.”
Mrs Lennie came to Rastrick High School as deputy to Peter Clark.
He had presided over the transformation of the school to a comprehensive, following the merger of Rastrick Grammar School and the former Reins Wood School.
“Peter had overseen the creation of Rastrick High and established the school at the heart of its community. I feel a great sense of achievement that I’ve been able to take all that groundwork and help create the school’s identity. Rastrick High is a successful school which serves its community very well.”
Mrs Lennie is particularly proud of the extracurricular activities which, she believes, have added value to her pupils’ education and help produce more rounded individuals.
“We have had an enrichment programme of visits, club and competitions which have been very rewarding. I wanted to make sure we had a really rich programme in place which was not about meeting targets.”
Mrs Lennie qualified as a teacher in 1976 and started her first job in education in 1977.
“Gap years had been invented back then so I think I’m going to give myself a bit of time when I retire to take stock and do some travelling. It may not be a gap year exactly, more like five months!
“Being head has been such an enriching, all-encompassing job. I loved being in education, I loved being a teacher and, most of all I’ve loved being head teacher at Rastrick High School. I wanted to do it to the highest standard I could.
“It’s been a big responsibility - apart from anything else the school has 220 staff and is one of the biggest employers in Rastrick - but it’s been a privilege to build links with the governors, the community, the pupils, families and staff. Obviously there are times when things go wrong but I can’t imagine a more rewarding job than teaching.
“Rastrick High School will always be very special to me.”
Mrs Lennie’s successor as head is Mr Stephen Evans.