Plaistow headteacher who turned primary around retires after 20 years

Gael Hicks with pupils in the Key Stage 1 garden. Picture: St Helen’s Catholic Primary School

Gael Hicks with pupils in the Key Stage 1 garden. Picture: St Helens Catholic Primary School - Credit: Archant

A headteacher who turned a primary school around is to retire at the end of the school year.

Gael Hicks has been headteacher at St Helen’s in Chargeable Lane, Plaistow, for the past 20 years and arrived when the primary was in special measures.

Chair of governors, Sarah Alexander, said: “Gael’s inspirational leadership led the school to be rated outstanding by Ofsted since 2007.

“Her leadership reaches wider than just at St Helen’s. Gael has continued to support other schools in Newham as well as being the driving force behind the Our Lady of Grace Multi Academy Trust which continues to expand.”

She added that under Gael’s leadership the school has continued its strong relationship with the community and St Margaret’s Parish Church and Convent.

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Durng Gael’s time at the school, St Helen’s was rebuilt for the third time in its history with a pre-school for two year olds opening in 2013.

The new school has a basketball court, cookery room, football pitch, pond, woodland area, sensory and soft play rooms and a separate Key Stage 1 garden.

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“All very impressive facilities for a school in the middle of Newham,” Sarah said.

Also impressive is the fact that 11 members of staff are former pupils. These include the current deputy headteacher, Claire Doherty, who will take over from Gael on September 1.

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