INTERVIEW: Headteacher Lee sets the stage for Bury St Edmunds school’s future
With a keen interest in drama, headteacher Lee Walker has directed and starred in a range of school shows.
But for his latest leading role at the helm of King Edward VI School, he has been carefully setting the stage for the next chapter in the school’s mission to inspire young people to be the best they can be.
The father of two, who is in his second term as headteacher after taking over from Geoff Barton, is now ready to share his vision.
“It’s about developing every student and every member of staff so they can thrive in an ever changing world,” he says.
“We know there are many things here which make the school special but we want to keep our focus on ensuring that people are prepared for future life as well as possible.
“We want to continue with our excellent work internally and our outward facing work and deepen some of the partnerships that are already making the school so special.
“Our core values are respect, aspiration and creativity.
“I imagine many schools have values but but for me and the community as a whole I think these are the things that will really make the school the success that it so palpably can be.”
He reels off a bevy of initiatives designed to uphold these core values and help every student to thrive.
Building on the Grove Road school’s relationship with St Edmundsbury Cathedral, the two institutions have jointly appointed an organ scholar and musician in residence.
They will be involved in organ playing and choral direction at the cathedral while helping to develop the school’s choirs and orchestra as well as supporting its performances at the cathedral.
King Edward VI is well known for developing student leadership and this year Lee is aiming to give every student a leadership opportunity.
A leadership qualification in Key Stage 3 is being introduced to develop organisational skills, resilience and community work.
A decade long exchange with Yangjing Juyuan Experimental School, in Shanghai, to hone leadership continued this week when King Edward VI welcomed its Chinese counterparts.
“It’s about developing those characteristics of respect, creativity and aspiration,” Lee says.
“It’s really about trying to inspire people to be the leaders we all need in the future.”
The Abbeygate Sixth Form College, run by the Suffolk Academies Trust which is a collaboration between West Suffolk College and Suffolk One, is due to open on the school site in September 2019.
“It’s a very exciting project for us because it means for the town of Bury there’s going to be a specialist sixth form centre and we’ve been delighted to be a key partner in setting this up.
“The idea is we transfer our expertise, our staffing, our experience of providing premium quality A-level education here to the new centre.”
Debating will continue apace, the school is always looking to offer more sports in its provision with dodgeball and Tchoukball being recent additions and it is forming a parent teacher association.
Lee also wants to find more ‘creative ways’ to strengthen ties with the primary schools in the Bury Schools Partnership with which he has a personal connection.
“When I started (here) I was commuting all the way from Huntingdon every day,” the 46-year-old says.
“I was very keen to find a house in Suffolk which we’ve now found and we moved in over the summer.
“It’s terrific to actually be within the catchment and send my two daughters to a school in the Bury Schools Partnership.”
Now in his 25th year of teaching, Lee started his career at Weavers School, in Wellingborough, as a teacher of Latin and Greek and became head of the classics department.
He was later a head of year at Northampton High School, assistant and deputy head at Impington Village College and deputy head at Hinchingbrooke School, in Huntingdon.
“I was pretty choosy about which school I wanted to go to be a headteacher,” Lee admits.
“As soon as I came to this school on interview something about its ethos, tradition and values absolutely resonated with me.
“I’ve always been determined to work in a school which is fully inclusive and embraces not only the widest range of academic subjects but opportunities for students of all abilities to thrive.
“I’m so delighted to be in a school which has an incredibly strong academic tradition but isn’t afraid to look to the future and find better ways to serve the community and that’s ultimately why I do the job.”
He is playing a part in the classroom by teaching some Key Stage 3 French and is keen to pursue some of his other passions in school.
His interest in drama has seen him star as the dame in school panto as well as direct shows including a performance of Medea and The Importance of Being Earnest.
“I’m always keen to help out if there are any opportunities to use my theatrical talents front or backstage.
“I understand there are going to be some unique opportunities for me to perform in future events.”
He says he would never rule out staging a panto at the school.
A ‘passionate and avid’ reader, Lee has been encouraging students to find more time to read.
“I read all types of fiction and non fiction so I’ve talking to the students about creativity and how can you be more creative,” he says.
“Well one of the ways is by reading and writing and doing.”
His predecessor Geoff Barton, who is now general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, led King Edward VI for 15 years and continues to be an ‘inspiration’ to Lee.
“His work gave me a fantastic transition to the school and he continues to provide support,” he says.
The governors have also helped him to settle in and they provided a ‘wealth of experience and knowledge about the school’.
“It has helped me to not make too many big changes straight away and I deliberatley have not come in being a headteacher wanting to sweep everything away.
“I’ve listened very carefully and I’m really proud of the fact the governors have helped the school develop its vision and values.
“I think ultimately the goal is to help every person within this community to thrive and be the best they can be, to help them explore all the opportunities available to them and find their unique niche.
“And not to be disappointed if they don’t find it straight away but to have the character, the aspiration and self belief to realise that they will thrive in the future.”