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.”’
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.”
so why is one person retiring from cushy a job any different to another ? its hardly news – people are retiring all the time.
Real world, the difference between you and Mr Stokes is he has been very good at what he has achieved in his working life. Had you had the same schooling that the children of Newington School have had you might not have grown to be such a miserable sad individual. Get a life while you can it doesn’t last long.
education aside bill – im still entitled to an opinion , or do you want that taking away as well ?
No I don’t want to take anything away from you but give the man some credit for doing a job well. I know as you say people retire every day but none the less a man who has been at the front of a team who has given their school something to be proud of deserves to be mentioned.
I’m not surprised that Cliff has been a success in his job as I remember playing football against him in the 80s and he was a natural leader. He took on a role at a school with historical issues and turned it round with his understanding of the area as a local man. We’ll done Cliff, our education system should be grateful to you for your dedication and obvious enthusiasm that I’m sure will have made a difference to those young children. Good luck in your retirement.
a totally outstanding man and headteacher, having worked as a community warden back in the day at Newington it was in conjunction with his leadership and humanitarian skills and the Newington community that the tide was turned on Newington and they had a school all the parents could be proud of. A fond farewell and a happy retirement Cliff. Regards John Bloomfield
Well said JB!
A fabulous headteacher.
Top Man – Remember him well from Dame Janet. Enjoy your well earned retirement
What a top bloke, 99-04 I was there through juniors. Sad to see his retirement but what a generation we had. Those who knew him know that he is great at what he does a real role model. I hope there will be another in his place.
Having known Cliff since teenage days and intermittent lunch since he was always a strong principled character, which he has shown in his career
Enjoy your hopefully long retirement and hope we can catch up again soon
Today as a grandparent of 2 children who are pupils at newington community juniors and to see the many gifts Mr Stokes and his team of staff received as we walked into school just tells you what a great head teacher Mr Stokes is. I’m actually really sad Mr Stokes is leaving as he certainly turned this school around and every pupil in this school holds this man in such high esteem. Why the funding was turned down to build a secondary school that Mr Stokes fought for is beneath us all.
Mr Stokes you were an icon to this school and you will remain an icon to every child in this school who will go on to possess the skills to succeed as you have taught and will continue even in your absence to succeed because of the impact you had as a very successful head to this school.
On behalf of every child in this school Thank you and may you have every success in your future .