‘I’ve never forgotten my roots’: Clayhall headteacher retires after 32 years

Dr Alan Atkins who is retiring as Head of Caterham School after 32 years.

Dr Alan Atkins who is retiring as Head of Caterham School after 32 years. - Credit: Archant

A Clayhall secondary school headteacher is retiring after 32 years.

Dr Alan Atkins’ time at the helm of Caterham High School, in Caterham Avenue, is coming to an end when school breaks up for the summer on July 20.

He became headteacher at the comprehensive school in 1986 at the age of 38 – one of the youngest in the area at that time, he believes.

Graduating with a PhD in physics at the age of 24, he quickly rose through the ranks as a teacher at various schools in Redbridge, Havering, Newham and Barking and Dagenham.

“I never dreamed I would be doing the job I am doing for 32 years,” said the 70-year-old.

“I was born in Plaistow, grew up in Newham and was the first in my family to go to university.”

He added: “My mum and dad had a tough time when we were growing up.

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“I have never forgotten my working class roots.”

One of the biggest changes he has seen during his time in charge has been the size of the budgets the school commands.

“When I started the only money we got was for books and stationery. It was about £20,000,” he said.

“If we wanted anything else we’d have to get the local authority to manage all of that.

“Now our budget is nearly £8million.”

The most rewarding aspect of his job has been helping to set young people up to succeed.

He said: “It’s great bumping into former students and finding out about the great things they are doing.”

Asked what he would like to say to his colleagues, he said: “I couldn’t have done this job without the dedication of the staff in my school.

“It has really been a team effort.”

With his newfound free time Alan plans to travel more across the UK and within Europe, get involved in volunteering and dedicate more time to supporting West Ham United.

“I have been a big West Ham fan since I was eight years of age,” he said.

“I was born near Upton Park and I’ve followed them through thick and thin.”