Birmingham’s longest-serving headteacher says she will miss school life after retiring this month – but she knows that after nearly 20 years she’s leaving her school in safe hands.
Tracy Campbell became headteacher at Sutton Coldfield’s Plantsbrook School in 2001, and was originally due to retire in the summer – but decided to stay on till Christmas to help staff and students deal with the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
Now Tracy, 57, is set to retire at the end of the year, handing over the reins to new headteacher Jason Farr, who is currently her deputy.
During two decades in charge at the Upper Holland Road school, Ms Campbell has seen huge changes, including a multi-million pound rebuild of the entire site.
“Some things haven’t changed,” she said. “Plantsbrook has always had a caring, and supportive approach to learning and that remains the same.
“But I think in some ways education has changed a great deal. For a start, there is a greater emphasis on results than there used to be, which means expectations are higher for both teachers and students.
“As a result, standards are higher, and I think the quality of teaching has improved too. Then there is the technology we have today. When I took over there were literally a handful of computers dotted around the school, now everything we do is supported by technology.
“The introduction of performance tables brought a new dynamic to education too – you could even say a competitive aspect – but in Sutton Coldfield the schools have always managed to mitigate that by working collaboratively.
“There has always been a strong tradition of working together.”
Now Ms Campbell is looking forward to tackling a ‘bucket list’ she has been compiling over the last couple of years – which includes everything from researching her family tree to learning to play the piano to volunteering at the Commonwealth Games in 2022.
“It’s hard to have an active social life as a headteacher, so there are lots of things I plan to do,” she said.
“I want to learn to cook and travel more. I’d like to take up painting again, which is something I used to do. I’ve even thought about becoming a magistrate.
“Mainly though it will be nice to do things in mid-week, like going to restaurants or the theatre, which I can never fit in at the moment.”
Throughout the Coronavirus pandemic, Plantsbrook stayed open to look after the children of key workers, as well as taking in youngsters from neighbouring Town Junior School and Holland House Infants School.
Ms Campbell has no regrets about postponing her retirement in the summer, describing it as ‘clearly the right thing to do.”
“It has been such a challenging year, and we have seen the absolute best of our school,” she said.
“I felt it would be better for the whole school if I stayed on until the end of the year, to bring a little stability as we set up the systems to deal with the guidelines we were being given.
“The staff and Leadership Team have worked brilliantly since September to ensure all of those systems are in place now, which should allow plainer sailing going forward in the future.”
That future will be in the hands of Jason Farr, 51, who will step up from Deputy to become Plantsbrook’s headteacher in January.
He said: “I can honestly say that, without Tracy, I would never have been in the position to become headteacher.
“When I arrived at Plantsbrook in 2007 my ambitions were to be a middle leader, but Tracy’s approach to motivating staff and students inspired me to be part of the Leadership Team.
“Tracy creates a caring and supportive environment that is about people, not business, which achieves results and helps people reach their potential.
“When I take over as headteacher, I know I have big shoes to fill, but I couldn’t have asked for a better mentor than Tracy.
“We are all going to miss her a great deal. There will be a lot of tears at the end of term, I’m sure of that.”
Ms Campbell said: “I know I will miss everyone here a great deal, and it will be emotional to say goodbye, but I know that I’m leaving Plantsbrook in safe hands.
“Jason and I share the same values and believe in the same way of doing things, and I know he’ll do a great job.”