‘Transformative’ principal Sue Freestone to step down after 15 years at the helm at King’s Ely

King's Ely principal Sue Freestone, centre, with Heads of School 2019, Maria Campbell and Felix Hawe

King's Ely principal Sue Freestone, centre, with Heads of School 2019, Maria Campbell and Felix Hawes. Mrs Freestone will retire from the school at the end of the month. Picture; JAMES LINSELL-CLARK - Credit: James Linsell-Clark/

Described as a “transformative principal and chief executive”, Sue Freestone is to retire at the end of the month from King’s Ely after 15 years at the helm.

Mrs Freestone became the first female head teacher in the school's 1,000 year history when she was appointed.

She became head in 2004 having previously led Sibford School, Oxfordshire from 1997.

A school spokesman said: "She made her mark as soon as she arrived by reversing the decision to drop rugby at King's Ely, bringing it back to the school in the nick of time."

During her time at King's Ely, pupil numbers have grown by over a third and are now set to reach a record 1,100 for the new academic year in September 2019, when the new principal, John Attwater, takes over.

Mrs Freestone said: "It has been a huge privilege to lead this school. I have been so fortunate to have had a team of dedicated professionals around me who are as passionate about the school as I am myself.

"It is they who are the secret of the success of King's Ely in recent years."

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She added: "The greatest joy of my job is that I have responsibility for the whole school which means that I see our young people grow and develop.

"In some cases this has been from the age of three to eighteen; from little children finding their way into the fine young adults who launch themselves onto the next stage, comfortable in their own skins and bursting with confidence and ambition."

Jeff Hayes, chairman of governors, said: "In the 15 years that Sue has led King's Ely, she has overseen several significant and material improvements.

"She has worked hard to raise the school's profile, and King's Ely's reputation locally, nationally and internationally has improved to the point where I believe the school is now seen as a 'go to' school in Cambridgeshire.

"Sue has been a transformative principal."

Many structural changes have taken place during Sue's tenure with the purchase and renovation of the Old Palace and the building of an arts centre with extended drama and dance facilities and theatre.

She has overseen the development of the choristers, instigating the establishment of the Ely Cathedral Girls' Choir in 2006.

In a personal letter to Sue upon her retirement, one parent wrote: "You have always been so very welcoming and we have greatly appreciated that personal touch when you must have so many people to consider and engage with.

" It is clear to us that you have steered a very thoughtful, inclusive, challenging and ultimately joyful course for the ship that is King's Ely and, furthermore, have ensured that you have a team who are 'on board' to carry on that direction."

Sue was presented with a bronze horse's head, created by former King's Ely student (Old Elean) Eddie Waites, in front of hundreds of students, staff, families and friends of the school at end of year service at Ely Cathedral.