A long-serving headteacher has said the profession is facing its "most challenging environment" as he prepares to leave his role.

Simon London has been headteacher of Hall Mead School, a non-selective secondary school in Upminster, for 15 years.

He will become chief executive of Empower Learning Academy Trust this September.

Mr London, who has 30 years' teaching experience, will oversee the running of several Havering schools, which include The Brittons Academy in Rainham, Bower Park Academy in Romford and Hacton Primary in Hornchurch.

Mr London said he has loved being a headteacher but felt pay disputes, funding problems and looming Ofsted judgments have created a difficult wider teaching environment.

"In 15 years as a headteacher this is the most challenging environment I've known for recruitment and retention of teachers.

"Everybody recognises that regardless of what union you are in, the current funding and teacher retention models aren't working."

Mr London added that there is momentum for change, catalysed by recent events such as the suicide of Berkshire headteacher Ruth Perry in January ahead of an Ofsted report.

"There isn't a massive queue of people that want to sign up as headteachers right now," he said.

RELATED NEWS: Infant school in Rise Park, Romford rated 'good' by Ofsted

Mr London, who also spent eight years as deputy head at St Martin's School in Brentwood, praised staff for dealing with huge disruptions such as Covid and preparing for Ofsted inspections.

“Covid was incredibly intense and stressful, spending Saturdays and Sundays having to tell people to isolate.

"The inspectorial accountability regime can be tough - just waiting for an inspection to come leaves you on perpetual stand-by."

Mr London said Hall Mead, which received an outstanding Ofsted rating in 2013, has always been well-prepared but it has taken hard work to keep it going.

The old building, which dated back to the 1960s, needed replacing and the timing could not be more difficult as Covid hit in 2021.

“It wasn’t fit for purpose, narrow corridors, sweltering hot in the summer, freezing cold in the winter and windows didn’t all open.

"We only had one hall that was also a dining room and also a drama class room," he added.

But a bid for a new Hall Mead was submitted in 2018 and funding was soon granted by the Department for Education.

It was completed in September 2021, three years after works began.

Romford Recorder: Mr London outside Hall Mead School, where he has been headteacher for the last 15 years.Mr London outside Hall Mead School, where he has been headteacher for the last 15 years. (Image: George Hayes)

Mr London hoped he could retain a connection to Hall Mead through visits.

"I do feel quite strange being a step removed from the pupils," he said.

“I will really miss the day-to-day because my life has been driven by the school bells for 30 years, the rhythm of the day and connecting with students."

Mr London, who will be replaced by Maria Ducker, his colleague of eight years, finished by reflecting on the challenges faced by the entire profession.

"All unions, including headteachers, do feel like their voices aren't being listened to and there's some recognition that needs to be looked at."

When life is difficult, the Samaritans is available 365 days, 24/7. Call for free on 116 123, email jo@samaritans.org, or visit www.samaritans.org.