Long serving Sheffield teachers say fond farewell to school community

With more than 75 years teaching experience between them, two much-loved members of staff are set to say a fond farewell to Ecclesfield School as they look towards retirement.

By Alana Roberts
Thursday, 11 July, 2019, 15:48
Kay Brentall and Pete Ellin retire from Ecclesfield School

It is a case of ‘school’s out’ for health and social care teacher Pete Ellin, 65, and maths teacher Kay Brentall, 55, who will enjoy their last day on July 19 after decades spent working at the school in Chapeltown Road. 

Kay Brentall and Pete Ellin pictured with Headteacher Richard Walkden

However, things could have been very different for both Pete and Kay – who joined the secondary school in 1978 and 1986 respectively – as teaching was not always on the cards.

As a former student, Pete has always had a connection with the school.

But it was only after a talk from an inspirational teacher that convinced him to pursue a career in education, later becoming at teacher in 1978 aged 23.

“I left in 1972 having failed the A-Level I needed to do my chartered surveyors course,” Pete said. “So I came back here and my PE teacher Mick Corden, he got selected for the 1972 Olympics and he was my inspiration.

Kay Brentall joined the school as a trainee in 1986

“He said why don’t you try teaching, so I did. I went away to college in 1973 and left three years later.”

After failing to secure a teaching job straight out of education, Pete worked at Concord Sports Centre before the perfect opportunity arose at Ecclesfield School, in the form of a temporary position within the PE department.

It was a similar situation for Kay, who at the age of 22, began her career within Ecclesfield School by pure chance. 

She said: “I finished my maths degree and didn’t really know what I wanted to do, so decided I would try this teaching lark to see what it was like and I loved it from the minute I started. It was a pure fluke really, I was meant to be going to a different school on a teaching practice and at the last minute it changed to here. 

Pete Ellin was a former student turned teacher

“I worked here and got offered the job. It was only a one-year contract to cover while someone was on a training course.”

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The pair have since taken on various roles at the school between them.

Pete has played an integral part within the PE department, where he spent nearly 40 years of his career, becoming head of boys PE and taught the likes of Sheffield United striker Billy Sharp and former Newcastle United defender John Beresford, before switching to his current role.

Kay meanwhile, who acted as assistant head of year for 15 years while continuing to teach maths, organised endless amounts of Peter Gordon Lawrence (PGL) water sports trips to locations including Spain and France.

And despite some ups and downs, the pair both said they couldn’t have chosen a better place to work.

“Everybody who comes here just loves the school, they just don’t want to leave,” Pete said. “The number of ex pupils who end up working here – there’s a lot.”

Kay added: “Lots of staff had their children come here. Particularly in the day, as a lot of people didn’t move, if you got a job here you stayed and were here for life so it was like a big family and everyone looked out for each other. Now at parents evening we have parents that we’ve taught, it still is a big community in that respect.”

However, the overriding factor that has kept Pete and Kay in the profession is the children – something they both will miss in retirement. 

“The big thing that has kept me in this school for such a long time is the kids,” Kay said. “They’re just lovely, even the cheekiest ones at time. That’s where I’ve been the happiest, just being in the classroom with the kids. You can come in feeling rubbish and they can make you smile. Being a teacher has been a big part of who I am and I’ve been very proud to say that, that I work here and that I’m a teacher.”

Pete echoed that sentiment, saying: “I feel exactly the same, I love coming to work every day. The kids are fantastic here – I see former students knocking about and they say ‘Hi Mr Ellin’ and their children are here. It’s just a special place.

Speaking about life after school, Kay said: “It’s going to be weird, people keep saying to me ‘aren’t you excited?’ but I don’t really know what I am. I think September will be the time when I notice it.”

Pete said: “My wife had a stroke in September so I was off for four months and that gave me a taste of what it is like, so I’m quite looking forward to it actually. It makes you realise that you aren’t immortal. I think as a teacher you feel like you are because the kids keep you young, but now is the right time to go.”

Headteacher Richard Walkden said losing two valued members of staff will be hard for the school, but wished the pair the best for the future.

He said: “As a school we can’t say thank them enough for their loyalty. You can’t put a price on knowledge and you can’t put a price on experience. Teaching is a natural thing and these two are naturals in dealing with kids and have got a sense of perspective and because they’ve been there, done it and worn the T-shirt –  kids trust them implicitly.

“They’re a familiar face for so many and what we will miss is their experience. People feel more secure knowing they’ve got these two people in the building.