Marie Hunter: goodbye to our indefatigable headteacher!

07 December 2016


Marie Hunter – farewell to headship after 21 years with us at Penryn College


This month Marie Hunter retires as our headteacher, a post she has held since April 1995. Under her leadership, Penryn College has been judged “outstanding” by OFSTED twice, in 2005 and 2009. 

‘Incredibly happy’

Ms Hunter said, ‘I’ve been incredibly happy at Penryn College.  It has been a real pleasure to come to work each day for the last 21 years. To have been entrusted, by so many parents with their children’s education is so important.    My mum taught me that every child has a talent.  Our job in schools today is to help young people identify where their talents and skills lie; to help them believe in themselves and develop the skills which will give them the best possible chance in life.  There is no more important job in our world worth doing than that.

Children learn well when they are safe and when they are happy.  This is at the heart of the College’s work.  I know Paul Walker, the new Head, believes this too and the College will continue to thrive under his watch.   

Penryn College and the Penryn community has always has a reputation as being one big family, long before I ever joined it.  I’m so very lucky to have been invited into this unique extended family and worked with so many talented adults and children.  I’m really delighted that I’ll be continuing to work here, in a different capacity, developing the education we offer with our primary schools.’

‘Inspirational leadership’

Chair of Governors, Henry Preston, said, ‘During her time as Headteacher, Marie Hunter’s inspirational leadership has taken the College to become one of the best 11 to 16 secondary schools in the South West.  In achieving this she has commanded the total support of Governors, the Senior Leadership Team, staff, parents and most importantly the students who have attended the College over the years. No mean feat by any standards.  This is evidenced by the College’s consistent popularity with parents and their children. The Governors consider themselves not only to have been fortunate but also privileged to have had Marie Hunter as Headteacher and now look forward to working with her on the proposed Multi Academy Trust of local schools. Her stepping down as Headteacher has been carefully planned and I am completely confident that Paul Walker and his team will continue her outstanding work.’

Parents, former students and Penryn residents will know Marie Hunter as the headteacher of Penryn College, but in her time at the forefront of education in Cornwall she has had many other roles.

National expertise

She has dedicated time and energy in her career to training, advising, and lecturing at local, regional and national conferences in her areas of educational expertise: school improvement; pupil voice and special educational needs. She was chair of Cornwall’s Equal Opportunity Group from 1990-92, producing Cornwall’s Equal Opportunity Policy statement. She has conducted educational research as far away as America, France, Singapore and China.  In 2008 she became a National Leader in Education, because of the high standards of education provided at Penryn College.  This means providing professional support to other schools and leaders. Numerous teachers and Heads have visited the College and have implemented things like the House system into their schools.  She is now a qualified Ofsted inspector.

Sports mad

Marie Hunter has been a huge supporter of school sports for young people. Penryn College became a sports specialist college under her leadership. She was a South West Regional Sports Board Member and part of the South West’s 2012 Olympic Steering Group. She also sat on a Cabinet Office Advisory Panel looking at Community Sport, attending ministerial briefings on education, sport and providing activities outside normal school hours.  As a result she was invited to join the National Headteacher Steering Group for PE and Sport.  In 2010 she became Chair of Cornwall Local Organising Committee for Sport which introduced the School Games National Pilot and she was instrumental in establishing Cornwall School Games. Recently, in 2012, she became a Headteacher Ambassador for the Youth Sport Trust, promoting the important work of elite young athletes as mentors of young people.

£24 million spent

Her legacy is physically evident in the spectacular school building Penryn College students and staff have enjoyed since its completion in 2008.  Marie and her leadership team competed against other Cornish schools for government funding from Cornwall’s Pathfinder “Building School for the Future” initiative and won the £24 million grant to build today’s premises and facilities.  The school also raised an additional £2 million to ensure the whole community benefited from some of the best sporting facilities available in the south west. 

Ms Hunter has always believed that working closely with the local community is central to a good school.  For ten years until 2008, she was Chair of Penryn Vision, the town’s Regeneration Forum, working with the Town Council to lay the foundations of the busy, proud place it is today.  

A ‘tornado’!

Mary May, former Mayor of Penryn said, ‘Penryn Vision became the wheel of the Town to drive regeneration projects forward during the 1990s.  Marie Hunter came on board as our President and kept us focused on the ambitions of the group! Marie let our group meet at the School, she never missed a meeting, despite her very busy days as Head. She guided us through helping us reach our objective.  Marie always delivers, but she does it in a way that you are all on board with her. I have the greatest respect for Marie and what she has achieved in Penryn for our children, most of them now adults! She whizzed into Penryn College like a tornado. That tornado was Marie! I remember her interview – see what that tornado has achieved!’

Handing over 

Current deputy headteacher, Paul Walker, said: ‘I have worked at Penryn for 15 years and feel incredibly proud of the school that it has become. I am absolutely committed to upholding what we know to be important here at the College – care for each other, tolerance, individual growth, academic success and happiness. I am delighted to be taking up the post of headteacher and look forward to working with our exceptional staff and brilliantly supportive parents to provide great education for all our students.’ 

It’s the end of an era, and staff and students wish her every happiness for the future.