It’s the end of an era at Fylde’s biggest school.
As the bell rings at lunchtime on Friday, December 22 to signal the start of the Christmas break for students, Phil Wood will bid farewell after 16 years as headteacher at Lytham St Annes Technology and Performing Arts College.
Mr Wood, who announced in May that he was retiring a year early at 59, will be succeeded in January by Ray Baker, who has been at the helm of Siddal Moor School in Heywood for the last four years.
“It has been an honour and a privilege to lead a fine school with an amazing body of staff, wonderful children and supportive parents,” said Mr Wood.
“I hope the school continues to go from strength to strength under the leadership of the new headteacher, Mr Baker.”
Along with continuing to do inspection work with schools watchdog Ofsted. Mr Wood is looking forward to spending time travelling and watching cricket with his wife Karen, who retired from teaching last summer.
Looking back on his time as head at the Ansdell-based school, which has more than 1,400 students, he said: “I have really enjoyed working at LSA which I believe provides not only a high standard of education for children in this area but also a caring, supportive and lively community.”
Dr David Swaffield, chairman of the LSA Governors, paid glowing tribute to Mr Wood,
He said: “Phil has been an outstanding leader, has always placed children and staff at the heart of his work and has created a learning environment where all can flourish.
“It has been a privilege to have supported him in his time at the school.
“He leaves the school in a better shape than when he arrived and all of the school community wishes him well in his well-earned retirement.”
Mr Wood is proud of the many changes brought into effect at the school during his tenure, including a comprehensive data system to track students’ progress and smart modern learning facilities
“When I arrived in January 2002 there were no systems for even recording how well children were performing, reports were hand written and teachers used different grading systems for assessed work,” he said.
“Half of our science labs were old and unsuited for teaching and learning. We now have wonderful facilities in science – though still some that need development in technology and other areas.
“But the biggest change has been the introduction of the college system for pastoral care. That breaks down our large school into smaller communities to give a greater sense of involvement and identity and I am a great believer that colleges have transformed our school for the better.
“I believe that this is a school that values every child and which gives a first class education with some wonderful opportunities for learning, in and outside the classroom.
“I am indebted to the teachers and support staff because without their hard work nothing could have been achieved.”
As far as his thoughts on education generally are concerned he said: “The quality of what goes on in the classroom is the key to raising attainment, not changing the structure of schools.
“I wish nationally there was less focus on creating academies and greater focus on providing the best resourced schools with the best qualified staff.”
Former student Betsy Hindle, who left LSA after seven years there in 2013 and has recently qualified as a barrister at just 22, paid tribute to the retiring head.
She said: “Mr Wood was one of my favourite members of staff. He always stayed impartial and allowed students views to be heard.
“You could always have a joke with him if you saw him around and I felt like he really encouraged and relished students’ successes.”
Mr Baker said: “Taking over from Lancashire’s longest-serving headteacher is a challenge, but Phil Wood has clearly very high standards and has created an excellent base to build on.”