New Year's Honours: Long-serving Sheffield headteacher recognised for services to education

A Sheffield primary school headteacher who has served the Burngreave community for nearly twenty years is celebrating after finding out she has made the New Year’s Honours list.

Friday, 27th December 2019, 10:30 pm
Fiona Rigby, 52, has been awarded an OBE in recognition of her services to education
Fiona Rigby, 52, has been awarded an OBE in recognition of her services to education

Fiona Rigby, headteacher at St Catherine’s Catholic Primary School, on Firshill Crescent, has been awarded on OBE for services to education having worked across various roles within the sector to support children during a career that spans nearly three decades.

Originally qualifying in Manchester in 1991, she later went on to work at Corpus Christi, in Miles Platting, where she would spend five years as a teacher before gaining a role as deputy headteacher at St Joseph The Worker Roman Catholic Primary School in Salford.

When she was 33-years-old, Fiona took the role of headteacher at St Catherine’s, joining the school on September 1, 2000, at a time when it was said to be in ‘serious weaknesses’ according to the education watchdog Ofsted meaning it was failing to provide its pupils with an acceptable standard of education,

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Under Fiona's leadership the school began to improve with a subsequent inspection deeming St Catherine’s to be ‘satisfactory’ before it went on to achieve a ‘good’ rating and, following it’s most recent inspection in 2017, it was judged to be ‘outstanding’.

That same year Fiona, now aged 52, was appointed to the role of National Leader of Education, becoming just one of around seventy headteachers to be selected for the top role supporting schools in challenging circumstances.

Alongside this St Catherine’s became a National Support School meaning that Fiona and all her staff are able to use their success and professionalism to provide a support package to those schools across the diocese of Sheffield Hallam which are in ‘special measures’.

Outside of St Catherine’s, Fiona has two sons – aged 22 and 17 – who both attended the school as children.

She also does extra work with Sheffield Council around inclusion to support children with special educational needs and/or disabilities (SEND) and was an Ofsted inspector for three years, taking a step back in September this year to focus on her role as a headteacher and in particular her work with the local authority.

Speaking of the honour, Fiona said: “When I first found out I thought what on earth? I was just in shock then it made me laugh then for a few days after that I was thinking what have I done to deserve this – it has just been a rollercoaster of emotions.

“I genuinely love my job and the community I serve. I always think why would I leave? I have a great team and love the Burngreave community so I’m just going to continue until I have to stop. It’s been hard to keep the secret but I’m just excited to tell people, I can’t wait.”