A DECADE ago, Helena Boast told education bosses closing Thomas, Lord Audley School in Colchester would be wrong.

Now, she has been vindicated.

Not only is the school now rated as good by Ofsted but Ms Boast, the school’s head teacher, has won the accolade of Essex Head Teacher of the Year.

Ms Boast, who started at the school in September 2008 as deputy headteacher, she lived by the motto ‘Things can only get better’ and she was determined to make it so.

Respected educationalist Jonathan Tippet was executive headteacher of the school at the time and both were part of a team which fought against Essex County Council’s proposal to close the school in 2009.

Ms Boast became headteacher in April 2013, determined to make fundamental changes.

She said: “My main goals to provide an excellent quality of education for the students in the school.

“I wanted to focus on fundamental change, rather than the quick fix.”

It was not plain sailing. The 2014 Ofsted inspection saw the school put into special measures but it also triggered a revolution in the approach to literacy.

There was a huge focus on transforming the curriculum and in 2016 the school was rated good by the watchdog, with specific reference to exam results.

It was also named the most improved secondary school in Essex for that year.

Ms Boast said: “Credit should be given to the senior team and the wider staff team who have demonstrated an extraordinary commitment to improving the quality of provision, including teaching and learning, in the school.

“Credit also to the students for taking up the challenges set and developing over their five years at the school.

“In the 2016 Ofsted inspection we were rated as good across all categories.

“It was a positive report which recognised how far the school had developed and how well the students were achieving across the school.”

That year saw a major improvement in examination results with the number of students getting five or more A* to C grades - including English and Maths - rising from 35 per cent to 54 per cent.

Supporting staff and students is nothing new for Ms Boast. She has worked in secondary education since 1987. She worked in three schools including The Plume in Maldon and Alec Hunter in Braintree, where she was a special educational needs co-ordinator.

She moved to work in Colchester in 2003 and set up the Colchester Teacher Training Consortium, taking a break from a teaching role until she joined Thomas Lord Audley.

Her experience has proven hugely beneficial to the school and she is proud of how far it has progressed.

While she was the winner of the Headteacher of the Year Award at the Essex Teachers Awards this year, she was adamant praise should go to the school’s staff and students.

She said: “I am proud of the staff and the students who have worked hard together to achieve what we have achieved so far. “I am full of admiration for my colleagues who have demonstrated a high level of expertise and dedication to provide a high quality education for the students in the school.

“I am pleased that the number of students attending the school has steadily increased and that we are full in most year groups.

“Increasingly parents are opting for Thomas, Lord Audley as their first choice school and I appreciate their support.”

The school now has more than 700 students.

Ms Boast is continuing to focus on literacy across the curriculum, adding it was fundamental to enabling the students to achieve high standards at GCSE level.

For her, it’s about continuing to focus on the basics to enable students to become the best they can be.

Speaking about her Headteacher of the Year award, she said: “I was pleased to be shortlisted and then win the award.

“I am really pleased it reflects well on the school and that it is recognition of what the school has achieved working together.

“In the end it is not about me as an individual but about what we have achieved as a team.

“I really enjoy my job as headteacher. Thomas, Lord Audley School has a strong heart.

“The students are keen to make the most of the opportunities.”

Ten years ago it was, at times, hard to see a future for the school, but now for Ms Boast the opportunities are endless.