End of an era as Newington says goodbye to head teacher Cliff Stokes

Cliff Stokes retires after a 40 year teaching career

Children, staff, families and friends at Newington Community Primary School in Ramsgate have said a fond farewell to popular Head Teacher Cliff Stokes who retires this summer.

Mr Stokes, 60, has ended his career at the same school where he began as a trainee teacher in 1982, signing off after the last 14 years in charge of a staff team at Newington that he describes as “absolutely fantastic – the very best I could have hoped to work with.”

His praise for his colleagues is matched by that for the children and their families. He said: “They have been a complete joy to work with. The children’s enthusiasm, willingness to meet challenges head on and develop ambition and aspiration, is what helps us make a difference in their lives and what makes this profession so worthwhile.

“The support from the families, and the Newington community in general has been an important cornerstone of what we all are aiming to achieve, and I thank them and the governors I have worked with over the years for their commitment to the overall forward-thinking vision we have for our school.”

As well as leading Newington to an Outstanding Ofsted in all areas of the school’s life, Mr Stokes has also driven the school forward, embracing and encouraging innovative teaching and resources such as the fast-developing world of new technology and backing the school’s in-house radio station that was named best in the country in the UK primary school radio awards last year.

During his tenure the school site has expanded and been renovated, and he has sought to create an all-through school from nursery to post 16 education, a plan he still believes would work and one that received support from parents and governors.

He was keen to embrace the local community and parents in life at the school through charity initiatives, information sessions, school events such as drama productions and music festivals.

In a heartfelt comment on behalf of the whole school, Assistant Head Teacher Taralee Kennedy said: “It would be so easy for us to feel nothing but sadness as we say goodbye to Mr Stokes, but really that would distract from the truth of this story, which is that our school and its community are far richer because he cared.

“He cared about the children, so he made sure that they got a first-class education as well as ensuring their welfare was the number one priority; he cared about the community, so he welcomed in parents and carers forging strong community links; he cared about the staff, so he held us to the highest standards and insisted on our very best ensuring our well-being was at the front of his mind; he cared about the future and fought valiantly for an all-through education (that day will come).

“He has never lost sight of why he came to Newington – even when we received an Outstanding rating by Ofsted he was clear – this is no time to rest  on our laurels as ‘getting better never stops’.  Mr Stokes we will miss you, but we will also never forget what you have taught us.”’

Newington head teacher Cliff Stokes

During his career Mr Stokes also taught at St Gregory’s Catholic Primary in Margate; West Bay Elementary in Vancouver, Canada, for a year; then at Dame Janet Juniors in Ramsgate where he was Deputy Head and then Head Teacher until returning to Newington.

A local magistrate and a keen runner, he will miss the hurly burly of a school life that is full of surprises. He said: “Every part of every day throws up new challenges for all of us.

“At Newington we strive to prepare our children to make the best of whatever comes their way – such as the unprecedented pandemic – and prepare them well to have a fulfilling and happy life.

“”Our school is a focal point and we continue to work with the people in our neighbourhood for the betterment of our shared environment.

“During my career it has been interesting to see how delivering education to our children from an early age has altered positively to embrace a more holistic view on their many and varied needs. Academic challenge and success is equally balanced with nurturing, wellbeing, self-esteem and developing usable life skills – these are all  equally essential.

“Being a teacher has been all about the children and listening to them and giving them time – I have treasured working with them and seeing how they absorb learning and life to become generations of Newington Winners.”