Teachers Move On After 200 Years Plus at Urmston Grammar…
When a teacher acquires a job at Urmston Grammar, they know that they have hit gold. It’s a mine full of hundreds of minds, like gold nuggets, waiting to be taken in hand, refined, forged and sent out as precious assets to the rest of the world. So, it’s no surprise that prospectors arrive, settle to their rewarding task and rarely move on, or to find – therefore – that six Urmston Grammar teachers, who retire this summer, have cumulatively amassed an amazing 190 years at the school. Add in the two or three other teachers who leave at the end of this school year, and it accounts for well over 200 years of service!
Teachers Merrick Weems, Mike Parker, Liz Parker, Charlotte Clowes, Liz Reddington and Angus Campbell will all be retiring in July this year.
Merrick Weems began his teaching career way back in September 1984 at the old Urmston Grammar School for Boys, which once stood on Bradfield Road (before the boys’ and girls’ schools amalgamated in 1988). Merrick has been part of the Geography department ever since. Merrick will be leaving Urmston Grammar having served, for many years, as the school’s Vice Principal. As such, Merrick has, from time to time, had to deal with some of our more disaffected students, and yet all with whom he has dealt speak highly of him.
“I ventured into a rather unsavoury pub one evening and spotted the one pupil whom I had taught, struggled with and even excluded,” Merrick reminisces. “He stood up, and I feared a confrontation was on his mind… He actually walked over, shook my hand and introduced me to his father in surprisingly glowing terms.” Merrick is “filled with joy” to have touched people’s lives and made a difference in a very positive way.
Mike Parker joined Urmston Grammar School for Girls (before the amalgamation), as an English teacher, in September 1986. In addition to teaching English, he has taught Media Studies and was initially Head of Drama – directing many memorable school productions – before becoming Head of the English Department. Mike was promoted to the Senior Leadership Team in 2008 and has served as both Assistant Head Teacher and as Vice Principal. Mike claims he joined Urmston Grammar intending to move on after just three years. He’s actually stayed for 34 years!
“The compelling reason for staying,” says Mike, “is the students. To find the spark which will ignite their passion for a subject is one of the most rewarding experiences one can have.” (Go here for a fuller picture of Mike’s 34 years at Urmston Grammar).
Liz Parker (no relation to Mike) was at Urmston Grammar, just ahead of amalgamation, joining the Girls’ School in September 1987. She has led a highly successful Mathematics department. She can be seen in the accompanying photo of the Girls’ School teaching staff, alongside Mike Parker, just ahead of joining teachers from the Boys’ School, as the two schools merged in 1988.
Also pictured is Charlotte Clowes who started at the Girls’ School a few months after Liz Parker, in April 1988. Charlotte has been a member of the P.E. department ever since. Each summer (though sadly, owing to Covid-19, not this summer), Urmston Grammar holds its Sports Days at Longford Park and – for Charlotte – this is a highlight.
“We all love to see our elite athletes shine, but even more special is the wonderful response to the last, lone, long-distance runner, as they enter the final straight,” she says. “The whole school community rises from the main stand to spontaneously applaud and cheer. I think this encapsulates the true spirit of our school.”
Liz Reddington joined Urmston Grammar’s R.E. department in September 1993, going on to become the subject’s head of department. Liz loves the sense of community at the school, and Liz herself has contributed significantly to that sense of community, leading countless R.E. trips but also participating in ‘Race for Life’, fundraising for Cancer Research, attending school trips to Germany and the Lake District, and, earlier this year, supporting mental health through exercise with RED January. The highlight, for Liz, of teaching at Urmston Grammar has been: “engaging with the students in philosophical and ethical discussions and debates about religion, life and the universe.”
Also retiring is Angus Campbell. Angus joined Urmston Grammar in September 1993 and has led a highly successful Physics department. As Angus says: “I have been fortunate to work with fantastic Physics teachers and lab staff, and it is nice to recall the superb results from the students in that time.” Entering the Paperclip Physics competition, run by the Institute of Physics, has been a highlight for Angus. Separate teams of Urmston Grammar students have won the Manchester and Merseyside heat of the competition five different times while Angus has been with us, and one of those teams actually came second overall in the national competition!
Working with such delightful students has a beneficial spillover into the staffroom, and, as Angus Campbell adds: “Another feature for me has been the spirit and sense of humour shown by the staff at UGS.”
Principal Riffat Wall has been reminded of the collective impact of this year’s retirees. “For me, teaching will always be the noblest of professions,” she comments. “Our retiring teachers have made such a positive impact on the lives of so many young people because they care so deeply about others. As teachers they have shaped future generations: they have done this through their passion for their subject, through their commitment to the pastoral development of students and through their dedication in supporting extra-curricular activities. Their impact will have changed the course of the lives of so many students; sometimes in the simplest of ways and at others in such dramatic ways that they would never have envisioned.
“I am saddened that our colleagues this year haven’t been able to have all those special conversations with current students and with staff; conversations at the end of the lesson, on the corridor or in the staffroom, when students and colleagues would have been able to thank them individually for the difference that they have made. But I hope they all know that we will miss them enormously and I know that the school will be poorer without their presence. I wish them all long, happy, healthy retirements – full of love, laughter and adventure.”