News from around the Archdiocese of Liverpool
LIVERPOOL CATHEDRAL CELEBRATING 50 YEARS
- A LOOK BACK AT OUR COMMEMORATIVE ISSUE
Bowing out at the top - by Simon Hart
Paul Kinsella is pondering the changes he has witnessed in his quarter-century as a head teacher. ‘Computers that were once half the size of a room are now available on your phone!’ laughs Paul, the head at St Monica’s Catholic Primary School in Bootle.
On a serious note, he highlights another change – namely, the significance now given to safeguarding in schools. ‘That awareness of our duty of care has become more formal, particularly with regards to children’s safety, and that can only be a good thing,’ he reflects.
‘The most important thing for us as a school is that we try our best to make sure children feel safe, happy and loved. If we get that right, we feel they’ll be in the right climate for learning and from there they’ll do their very best. It’s always been a mantra in our school.’
The 59-year-old is in reflective mood because this month brings his retirement after 35 years in teaching. Pupils’ leavers events will be ‘that little bit more poignant’ admits Paul, who will be the focus of a Mass and gathering at St Monica’s parish centre as the school says goodbye to its lodestar of the last 18 years.
One colleague describes him as ‘wise, approachable, supportive, kind, caring and understanding’ and his impact has been considerable since his arrival in 2004 from his previous head-teacher post at Beach Road Primary School, Litherland. St Monica's had already earned one outstanding Ofsted rating. He guided it to four more, making it the first school among 23,000 nationwide to be placed five times in a row on Ofsted's list of outstanding providers. As a consequence, Paul became a national leader of education, meaning he and St Monica’s helped to support schools seeking better inspection results.
‘I hope to do some school improvement work,’ he says of his wish to put this experience to use in a consultancy role. And one lesson he will definitely pass on is to not lose sight of the wood for the trees. He explains: ‘Whatever the political philosophy of the government of the time, whatever the challenges offered by the bureaucracy of education with things like Ofsted and Education Acts, I’ve learned to never lose sight of the day-to-day job which is being the very best for your children and colleagues within the school.’
Thus, he continues, while all the paperwork ‘can be quite imposing’ it is important to not ‘obsess about things that are imposed on us’ but rather ‘take a considered view and personalise it to the needs of children, families and staff and make it work for you.’
Above all, he stresses, making it work for St Monica’s has been a team effort. ‘I want to give all my thanks to the staff who are exceptional. My governors have given me great support and challenged me too, which is their role.’ If wary of straying into ‘Oscar speech’ territory he also cites Father Pat Sexton and Fr Ged Callacher, parish priests at St Monica’s during his time at the school along with ‘the families and children as without them we are nothing’.
Last but not least there is his wife Jane and daughters Georgina and Philippa to thank for their support. With Jane retiring from her own teaching position at St Paschal Baylon, the Bishop Eton parishioner envisages more opportunities to travel as well as the challenge of continuing his regular run-outs on the seven-a-side football pitch. ‘We’re still running a bit – it’s not quite walking football!’ smiles the lifelong Evertonian. Retirement is one thing, but he won’t be slowing down altogether.
Making it work for St Monica’s has been a team effort