July 2015 saw the retirement of Mr Patrick Nelis, Headteacher of St Theresa’s Catholic Primary School, Sheffield after twenty-four years of service. To mark the occasion the school and parish held a special thanksgiving Mass for him, made even more significant with the presence of the Bishop.
St Theresa’s Church was full of pupils and staff, both past and present, governors, parents and parishioners; all wanting to share in celebrating the dedication Mr Nelis has shown to the school and parish.
Pat first came to St Theresa’s as Deputy Headteacher in 1987 and became Headteacher in 1990. During his time as head he made many developments and changes, improving the education and opportunities of the children the school serves.
The academic achievements of the school have considerably risen under Mr Nelis’ leadership. When testing of Y6 pupils was introduced in 1996 results were low. For example, 36% of the pupils were successful in achieving a level 4 in maths; the national average for a Y6 pupil. In 2015, 97% achieved this level; a figure that has consistently been reached over the last 5 years. The school has been ranked in the top 30 of primary schools in Sheffield since 2009 for its academic achievements and the progress made by the pupils.
Mr Nelis always showed real commitment to this school and its surrounding area. He worked collaboratively with other local heads to improve the opportunities for young people from the locality, first through Education Action Zone and now Sheffield South East Learning Partnership, successfully raising the profile of the area and improving standards for its pupils.
For many years he had been chair of the Sheffield Family of Catholic Schools Headteacher meetings, again showing to all just how important collaboration is. He has always been willing to share ideas and listen to the needs of others, helping where possible.
Through his 24 years Mr Nelis influenced the lives of many children. He has watched many of them become parents themselves and return to the school with their offspring. He has built quite a reputation for looking after the babies in their prams while the parents see their children to class, often being referred to as ‘daddy day care’. When the pupils were asked what they would remember him for there were many varied answers – all polite – ranging from his love of maths, particularly fractions, to the introduction of lollipops and maltesers as prizes. One boy simply stated ‘he’s like having an extra Dad.’
At the end of Mass Bishop Ralph presented Mr Nelis with a Papal Blessing. He was also presented with a parchment from the Local Authority, recognising his long term service to education. Mr Nelis was said to have been very humbled by the whole occasion, saying that he had been very lucky to have worked with so many wonderful people.