New era for St Albans secondary school as head steps down after 13 years

Elizabeth Hitch and Martin Atkinson.

Elizabeth Hitch and Martin Atkinson. - Credit: Archant

The head of a St Albans secondary school, who is stepping down after 13 years, says she has enjoyed seeing pupils ‘grow and blossom’.

Elizabeth Hitch and Martin Atkinson.

Elizabeth Hitch and Martin Atkinson. - Credit: Archant

Elizabeth Hitch, who has been headteacher of Beaumont School, Oakwood Drive in St Albans, since 2004, praised staff for helping to give the institution a national reputation for teaching and learning.

The role is being taken over by deputy head Martin Atkinson - who has taught maths at the school since 2005 - in September.

Mrs Hitch said: “The quality of teaching is absolutely brilliant and something I am really proud of. I hope people don’t think it’s an exam factory; for me it’s about music, drama, arts and PE - all the extras.”

She particularly singled out the role of head of music Hanh Doan in ‘revolutionising’ the music department, the ‘amazing’ work of head of drama Zoe Shepherd, and the school’s basketball team claiming the county champion title.

In recent years, Beaumont has completed an extension to its Sixth Form common room, a new sports hall and opened new playing fields in a project which was in the making for 20 years.

Mrs Hitch, who taught geography and was deputy head for three years before becoming headteacher, said: “I love going on school trips. I was privileged to go to Iceland with the geography department and we saw the Northern Lights.

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“There have been so many highlights. Another one would be the music department singing for the Queen on her Diamond Jubilee in Hatfield House.

“One of the best things is just watching the students grow up. They join us in Year Seven and you just watch them grow and blossom.”

Speaking about the low points at the school, she said “the absolute worst time” was when two pupils died in the same week in 2009, from unrelated conditions.

Mrs Hitch also described the school’s struggles with funding due to government cuts. She said: “Funding is awful now. In our school we have been so fortunate to get the funding for the sports hall. The day-to-day funding from the government has been cut and cut and the cost of staff has gone up and up.

“It’s a brilliant job and a rewarding job, [but] we have got to be very careful about who we recruit.”

Beyond Beaumont, Mrs Hitch plans to take some time out from work to relax and spend time with her husband.

She said: “My husband is retiring early and we don’t see much of each other at all.

“We are going to spend some time together. There will be lots of walking and travelling and looking forward to new challenges.”

Mr Atkinson, who described himself as “St Albans through-and-through” initially worked in the school in the 1990s, before moving to Sandringham for a few years.

He said: “I am delighted to have been appointed. It really feels like I have got an opportunity.”

Mrs Hitch said: “I am leaving an amazing team of staff and Mr Atkinson is going to be brilliant.”