The news of Helen Griffith’s death has dominated our thoughts over the past week. To lose someone who has been a colleague and a friend for so long is particularly difficult and it has been very moving to see how everyone has come together and supported one another through what is clearly a very difficult time.
It is all too easy to revert to clichés when you write about a bereavement and trying to avoid this and put feelings into words is not easy. What I would say is that Helen held a unique position in our school, because she started here as an early years teacher, before being promoted to Head of the Pre-school, then took over as Head of the Pre-prep before moving up to become Deputy Head.
This means that she worked in every section of the School over the past six years in particular and therefore, everyone who has been part of the school over this period of time will have worked with her in one capacity or another.
I suppose what struck me most when I first met her was the sense of calm that she exhibited. I don’t think I ever saw her angry, flustered or over-wrought, indeed she seemed to take everything that arose, every challenge, every incident and every tricky decision that needed to be made, very much in her stride. She was a tremendous source of support for me as a head, because she was able to differentiate between those issues that really did require some action and incidents that would blow over if quietly left alone. When we did have to take action over something she was a tremendous sounding board, a really good listener and this really is a skill that is far more difficult than many people might imagine.
We didn’t always agree – that’s simply not possible and I would have been worried if we had, but disagreements were few and far between and frequently compromises were reached that pleased us both and enabled the School to continue to move forwards.
Working with Helen really was an absolute pleasure; she had time for everyone and her attention to detail was quite extraordinary. This meant that even the smallest things were very rarely missed and events that she had a hand in organising tended to run like clockwork.
Of course, the sense of loss that we are feeling as a community pales into insignificance when compared to that of her family. They are people with enormous faith and Helen working at a Woodard school was entirely fitting to her own sense of values and beliefs. My heart goes out to Aled, David and Heili, Siân and Simon and Dan. Their loss is so much greater than ours and our prayers are with them in the week and months that lie ahead.
What is beyond doubt is that our school was a better place for having Helen as part of our community over the past nine years. She will not be forgotten.