Julia Mortimore will leave The Costello School after more than a decade

Basingstoke Gazette: End of the road for Basingstoke headteacher End of the road for Basingstoke headteacher

A BASINGSTOKE headteacher, who has lead her school through good and challenging times, is this week moving on after more than a decade at the helm.

Julia Mortimore will leave The Costello School at the end of this term before starting a new job as head of St Bartholomew’s School, in Newbury.

Mrs Mortimore has faced some difficult challenges during her time as head, the first coming a year after she started.

A fire in 2003 destroyed a third of the school buildings as well as work and equipment in the classrooms.

Mrs Mortimore said: “The fire was a significant point. It brought us together and gave us the drive to push the school forward in terms of designing a fantastic, modern facility for those areas that were lost.”

A second tragedy affected the school in February 2011 when 14-year-old pupil Louise Eames, from Popley, Basingstoke, died after being hit by a car on her way to school, as she crossed London Road.

Mrs Mortimore said it was important to help pupils and staff deal with the aftermath of the tragedy.

She said: “We made it clear in a public way that there’s nothing wrong in grief, and we came together at that time. It was about providing support for those affected.

“It was the same with the fire. Communication is key – it’s an essential part of being a successful head.”

The mother-of-two said the school had created a special memorial garden in memory of Louise, adding: “You remind yourself of these challenges and become stronger and better as a result, by coming together and addressing it but not forgetting it happened.”

The school had long campaigned for better crossing facilities along London Road, and these have now been installed.

Mrs Mortimore said a happier and momentous occasion was taking the entire school to watch the Olympic Torch pass through the town in 2012.

She said: “It was something so important for the country, and we celebrated as a community.”

Other highlights of her tenure include Costello being in the top 10 Hampshire schools, and converting to an independent academy last year.

Mrs Mortimore said when she started at Costello 11 years ago, students did not have high aspirations.

She added: “I’m leaving a tremendous school in a good place. We have been on a journey. I feel as though I have achieved a lot in that time and transformed the school.

“Now I’m looking for a new challenge because I’m leaving a school in a fantastic place that’s a vibrant community, where all the staff and students work together to achieve their best.”

She admitted to having “mixed emotions” about leaving, and said: “There’s always sadness and excitement. This has been my home for 11 years, but I’m looking forward to the new challenges and making a difference elsewhere.”

She added: “I would like to thank all the students, parents and staff for 11 wonderful years. I am taking away 11 years of happy memories – I really am. And I’m leaving a talented and inspirational team of staff here.”

Nick Price, deputy head, will become acting headteacher in January before a permanent head, starts in September 2014.

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