AFTER 38 years in the classroom doing ‘the best job in the world’, Saddleworth School headteacher Dave Watson undoubtedly deserves a well-earned retirement.
Mr Watson, 60, joined the school on Uppermill High Street as deputy head in 2012 before becoming associate head in 2015 then headteacher in 2019.He will officially have his last day in the role on August 31 along with executive head Matthew Milburn, with the pair handing over the reins to Mike Anderson, who joins from The Blue Coat School.
Mr Watson said: “Being a headteacher is the best job in the world but the best part is working with the children. There has never been a day when I didn’t want to get up and go to work.
“At Saddleworth, I have worked with some of the best teachers I have met in my career who are also the best human beings. There is a great blend of styles and personalities.
“The children are also fantastic. Many people assume this is a typical village school but that is not the case – we have got such a diverse intake in terms of culture and background.
“Children are very upfront and honest. They have a wealth of diversity and ability and bring a great humour to the place and also a huge amount of care.
“I am proud of the excellence the pupils achieve and we have on display around the school, such as the artwork in the hall and on the walls.
“There is also the sporting prowess and dedication from the children as well as music and drama. We try to give the children a chance to shine at lots of different things.”
Mr Watson began his career as a chemistry teacher at Oulder Hill Community School in Rochdale in September 1982 – the same school he attended as a boy.
He moved on in 1988 to become head of chemistry at Sutton High School before enjoying other top roles including assistant head and headteacher at various schools across the area.
2003 brought his arrival as deputy head then acting head at Stamford High School in Tameside, where over four years he feels he had the biggest impact in his career.
“It was a school definitely going in the wrong direction,” Mr Watson said. “Working with Alistair Smith we put in a ‘learning to learn’ programme and the impact was huge.
“Exclusions went through the floor and attainment went up. People used to come from all over the country to see what we had done.”
This success led Mr Watson to a secondment as a strategic development consultant and education consultant, delivering training to schools across the country and speaking at conferences about educational improvements.
But in 2012 he returned to the classroom at Saddleworth School where he has remained since before taking the decision to retire – even if the conditions are not quite as planned.
“With the coronavirus pandemic and lockdown, it was not quite how I expected to finish my career!” he admitted.
“But the 13 weeks of lockdown confirmed that I have made the right decision. It has been a chapter of my life that I have loved every moment of but it is time to do something different.
“I have looked at a couple of things but not made a decision yet. But I have booked first term-time holiday ever for next February!
“Usually there would be a big leaving do and I’d get to say goodbye to everybody but we will have to do that differently now.
“I have had the best time and the best job for 38 years. I came into this job to make a difference and I hope I have done that.”