Headteacher pays tribute to small school with a huge heart

Mr Graham Hurrell will be retiring as headteacher of St John's School

Mr Graham Hurrell will be retiring as headteacher of St John's School - Credit: St John's School

Staff, pupils and parents at St John's School in Sidmouth will soon be saying farewell to their headteacher, Mr Graham Hurrell, who is set to retire at the end of term.

Mr Hurrell said: "It seems impossible that I started teaching in 1975, and that my oldest former student is now 62 years of age. Definitely time to retire! 

"Since those early days of working in Comprehensive schools in Suffolk and Cambridgeshire, I have been blessed to lead schools on four separate continents; but none quite like St John’s. It really is the small Devon school with a huge heart, with a superb family feel, internationalist outlook and rightly known for its Pastoral support, individuality and “value added”. 

"While Covid-19 may have thrown up a few unexpected challenges, it has been a privilege to work beside our passionate staff who will always go the extra mile to support school and pupils. That privilege extends to our student body as well, as you would be hard pushed to find a more caring, polite, enthusiastic and sociable group of young leaders, who really do want to make a difference in the local and regional context.

St John's School, Sidmouth

St John's International School - Credit: St John's School, Sidmouth

"I joined St John’s in January 2020, having spent many years with IES in Ecuador and the United States, and while the environment has changed, the ethos, resilience and drive for improvement is the same. In terms of achievements in that time, we can be proud of the support we provided for children’s wellbeing during the pandemic, and the way that we managed to complete most of our annual activities, even if remotely. “Necessity is the mother of invention” and we again became the learners, the risk takers and then mentors. It was an important experience for us all and allowed us to appraise our limitations and strengths, and concentrate on what we do well. 

"It has therefore been a true pleasure to see how the school has opened its doors to the community and how we have used our enormous grounds and woodland for the benefit of all children for sport, recreation, camps and obviously wellbeing. Our woodland glades and stream are havens of wildlife, shade, tranquillity and smiles, and that for me is the key. Happy, smiling children who are aware of their environment and nature, will always succeed, and will sustainably steward our Earth for everyone’s future. That has to be a strength.

"My wife and I will both greatly miss the entire St John’s community as well as the wider IES support, and it goes without saying that stunning Sidmouth will stay fondly in our memories for years to come. The support we have received from former students, Sidmouth organisations and schools as well as the wider community has been incredible, and we offer a sincere “thank you” to all who have helped us on our current journey. “A journey of a thousand miles starts but with a single step” (Laozi) and I am now delighted to hand over in August to Mr Bryan Kane to complete the journey in style, and add his own additional experience, professionalism and passion. Retirement and family time are our only plans at the moment, along with hopefully meeting up with our many friends and relatives on those four continents – I can be passionate about Ecuadorean tropical beaches as well!

"Thank you, St John’s, for two memorable years and I wish you all happiness, continued success and have only one request, please, that you never lose that large heart."

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