THE headteacher of Rhyl High School has said she will leave her post at the end of the academic year feeling “very proud to have been associated with it”.

Claire Armitstead, head of the school since January 2010, will become director of Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) Cymru, an association and trade union for all school, college and trust leaders.

During her time as headteacher, Mrs Armitstead has overseen the school coming out of special measures, relocating to a new building, and drastically increasing its number of pupils.

Despite speaking about schools in Denbighshire facing a “very challenging time” financially in April, with budgets having been cut and a £1million shortfall on the horizon, Mrs Armitstead said this did not influence her decision to leave.


Headteacher who has led school through challenges to leave role

Rhyl High put together battleplan to survive £1m shortfall

She said: “This school is like my third child.

“But I’m about to become a grandma, and my mum has dementia, and with my new job, I can work from home, so can support her more.

“This job also doesn’t really give you the flexibility that you might need when you’ve got your first grandchild, but working for ASCL Cymru is the only other thing I would do besides be head of Rhyl High School.

“When it came up, with the whole situation at home, I thought now was probably the right time to look at doing something different.”

Mrs Armitstead has also been offering support and expertise to another school in Rhyl; Christ the Word Catholic School, which has been in special measures since 2022.

She will step back from this role, too, but said she has “really enjoyed our two schools working together”, and believes Christ the Word is “on the right track”.

Candidates for her replacement at Rhyl High School, meanwhile, are due to be interviewed for the job at the end of June.

Rhyl High SchoolRhyl High School (Image: Submitted)

In terms of advice she would give her successor, Mrs Armitstead said: “Remember what’s important - the important thing is the wants and needs of our children.

“Our role is to develop and change and innovate, and do anything we can to make sure they’re met.

“Rhyl is a very different place to work; it has its own identity and culture, and when you can capture that and work with the community, it’s amazing. The community support we get is just wonderful.”

Mrs Armistead also paid tribute to the staff and governors at Rhyl High School, who she said “never give up” and are “the most amazing people”.

This was her first job as a headteacher, having previously worked at schools in Wrexham, Birkenhead and Runcorn.

In its latest Estyn report, in 2022, Rhyl High School was praised for ensuring the wellbeing of staff and pupils is of "highest priority" and the school’s curriculum offer was noted to be a "particular strength".

Mrs Armitstead added: “I’m proud of the soul of our school. I’m proud of who we are, what we do, and how we support children.

“I’d been head for about six months when we came out of special measures for the first time in two-and-a-half years, and I’ll never forget the sounds, the feelings, the pride that generated.

“When I started, we had 699 children; now, we have 1,200. One statement in Estyn’s report, that we “mitigate for the impact of poverty”, I said I wanted on my gravestone. That meant more than anything else anyone could say.

“The school has character, and you feel it as you walk around it. To leave was the hardest decision I’ve ever made.

“I’m sure, on September 1, I’ll be sitting at home and feeling the loss, but the staff will keep it going from strength to strength. I’ll always be very proud to have been associated with it.”