Retiring head ready for his ‘grey gap year’

Phil Pike the retiring head at the Phoenix School , Orton Malborne , pictured with some of his pupils EMN-170706-173921009
Phil Pike the retiring head at the Phoenix School , Orton Malborne , pictured with some of his pupils EMN-170706-173921009

A leading headteacher in Peterborough believes he has left a “huge legacy” as he looks forward to retiring at the end of August.

Phil Pike had led the Phoenix School to three consecutive ‘outstanding’ ratings from Ofsted after becoming the special school’s first head when it opened back in 2004.

And the 56-year-old can now put aside the constant educational changes he says have been imposed by successive governments to begin his “grey gap year” and enjoy travelling with wife Angie.

Phil, of Orton Brimbles, and a former headteacher of Willoughby Special School in Bourne, said: “I’m very proud of three outstanding Ofsteds spanning different governments - it’s a huge legacy.

“That’s what I’m proudest about, that children with severe learning disabilities go to an outstanding school.

“There’s a lot to celebrate in SEN (Special Educational Needs) and this is one good thing we can shout from the rooftops.”

Phoenix is now based at two sites, with its lower school at Clayton in Orton Goldhay and its upper school at Malborne Way in Orton Malborne.

And Phil believes a fresh pair of eyes is necessary to take the schools forward, with a decision needed on whether Phoenix should become part of an academy chain.

He added: “I wanted to leave where I’m at the pinnacle of my career. I’m not like an ageing soap star, I wanted to leave where I’ve been happiest and most fulfilled.

“I’ve stayed here the longest of any job I’ve had. That’s down to staff, the families and children. It’s been an absolute honour to run this school.”

Problems Phil said he had encountered were from politics and school funding, as well as “unnecessary paperwork.”

He explained: “You’re working in a backdrop of constant change. What you need in education is a period of stability, particularly in SEN.

“It does not help that education is the first thing on everybody’s change list. For a school like this it’s not just education, it’s branching into social care.

“But, that is far outweighed by all the positives like seeing a change in youngsters and making a difference for families.”

Council leader and former education cabinet member Cllr John Holdich said: “Phil was a true gentle giant and he touched the lives in a positive way of young people with various difficulties.

“The standard of what he provided at the school is there for all to see. I’m very sorry to see him go.”