Respected headteacher of Christ the King High School in Preston retires marking the end of a generation of teachers

The respected headteacher of a Preston high school has retired after nearly a decade in the post.

By Aimee Seddon
Tuesday, 26th July 2022, 3:45 pm
Updated Wednesday, 27th July 2022, 1:47 pm

Damien Callagher, headteacher of Christ the King Catholic High School retired last week, at the end of the academic year.

Originally starting his teaching career as a PE teacher at Ashton Community Science College, Damien took up the position of Deputy Headteacher at Christ the King Catholic High School in January 2006.

In September 2013, the “much-loved Deputy” was promoted to Headteacher of the Laurence Avenue school, holding the position for a further nine years.

Damien Callagher, headteacher of Christ the King High School since 2013, has retired.

What does Damien say of his time at Christ the King?

Damien told the Post: “There’s been loads of highs and lows along the way, we won the Lancashire Post Secondary School of the Year in 2019 but had some difficult times as well, we lost a number of members of staff at various points, so times like that are very tough. But the message that I'd want to get through is about the teamwork of the staff. What we strive to achieve is that coming together as a family, Christ the King is a school with a lot of deprivation, all the staff really do go the extra mile to try and do everything they can to support the students and to make up for the things that they haven't got in their home lives.

“So yeah the staff have been really supportive of me personally, and supportive of each other, but you know, really strong for the children. It's the children that come first all the time, which is how it should be in any school.

“The governors as well – having a really strong and supportive governing body that also challenges you, and is very committed and dedicated, that's been really important in the development of Christ the King.

Damien with one of his grandchildren at his leaving do last week.

“We've gone from a school that's always been really nurturing and supportive, but also now is much better in terms of being high achieving, in terms of the results that the children get, and the importance of trying to raise their aspirations so they can go on to do bigger and better things once they leave us.”

How is Damien part of a wider teaching legacy?

Damien is not the only member of his family to have made an impact on pupils in Preston, as he is the last of six siblings to retire from careers in education, after being inspired by their father before them.

Starting off the dynasty was James Callagher, the headteacher of St Joseph’s Catholic Primary School between 1964-1984, then his eldest children, twins Catherine and Helen, 64, were Heads of Languages and English at All Hallows Catholic High School respectively, followed by Martin, 62, former headteacher of Coprus Christi Catholic High School, Damien, 58, as well as Kevin, 61 and Chris 55, who were both caterers across numerous schools in Preston.

Left: James Callagher in his office at St Joseph's. Right: Outside the school with Monsignor O'Neil and his children Martin, Catherine, Helen and Kevin in 1964

The next generation of the Callagher family are even continuing the educational tradition, with Damien’s daughter being a primary school teacher at St Gregory’s, his son managing a supply teacheR agency, and his daughter-in-law being a teacher, whilst Helen’s daughter is a primary school teacher at St Anthony’s and Martin’s daughter is an English teacher at St Mary’s in Blackpool.

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How did Christ The King say farewell?

Damien’s family were invited to his leaving do at the school last week, where he was surprised to learn that Christ the King had named their new sports arena, ‘DJ Callagher 3G Sports facility’, after him as well.

Damien's leaving do. From L to R: his sister Catherine, Angela, brother Kevin, Damien, neice Laura, daughter-in-law Hannah, sister Helen and brother Chris.

“I was certainly very surprised by it, very much taken aback but very honoured to accept that, it was really kind”, he says.

In what the school called “a fond farewell to a well respected Headteacher”, a spokesperson said: “Since [becoming headteacher] Christ the King Catholic High School has gone from strength to strength and is now an over-subscribed school. Damien’s knowledge and expertise has won him the respect of his Preston and Lancaster Diocese Headteacher colleagues. He is thoughtful, kind, compassionate and selfless. He is always professional and leads by example.

"However, Damien is always first to take part in extra- curricular activities such as the Ice Challenge or Sponge the Headteacher and is more than happy to take up the microphone at the school concerts or presentation of awards evenings.

“Recently, he led the school through a Diocesan Inspection that led to a judgement of Outstanding.

“Damien will be missed as a Headteacher, a fabulous leader and more than this as a friend.

“He is wished a long, happy and healthy retirement.”

What does Damien say about retiring?

Damien added: “It's been a big part of my life and as a headteacher, you invest a lot into it so it is sad to be leaving, but it's a new chapter for the school and a new chapter for me personally, I'm looking forward to spending more time with my family and playing a bit more golf, walking and reading, some of the things you don't always get time to spend long enough on really!”