As schoolchildren look forward to a summer of freedom, education reporter SOPHIE SCOTT speaks to teachers saying a more permanent farewell to lessons as they prepare for retirement

BETWEEN them they have more than 180 years’ experience of teaching youngsters across Oxfordshire.

But this week, they were hanging up their coats and packing up their books in preparation for their retirement after term end on Tuesday.

The educational landscape has changed dramatically from when they first began their careers.

One thing that is certain for all the teachers who yesterday left school is that children have been at the heart of everything they have done in their career.

One difference has been the move from Oxfordshire having a a three-tier education system, with primary, middle and secondary schools, down to what we see now with a two-tier system.

And, more recently, the county now has more than 60 academies, two free schools and a University Technical College in the pipeline, as well as two Studio Schools. It is becoming an ever-changing landscape – with Michael Gove no longer Education Secretary, and the general election coming up next year, more change could be on the cards.

Oxford Mail:

  • Stuart Norridge

Of those retiring is Burford School’s Head of History, Stuart Norridge, who has been part of the school’s make up since 1961.

His career at the school first started as an 11-year-old when the school was then Burford Grammar School, right until he was 18.

Mr Norridge, of Witney, began teaching at the school in 1975, after spending two years working at Great Rollright Primary School.

He is the longest serving member of staff Burford School has had.

And it is not just the school he will miss. He met his wife of 21 years, Jane, at school and they have taught in the classroom next door every day.

Mr Norridge said: “We met in 1983. I asked her out, but she said she was busy washing her hair. We stayed in touch, went to parties and such and then about nine years later I was invited to a party at the golf club and I asked her to come with me.

“And I think as they say, the rest is history.

“Over the time, she has been my boss and I have been hers. We teach in classrooms next door to each other. But what happens in school stays in school, we might have a chat on the drive home about the day but when we get home we are husband and wife.”

He said it was his teachers, when he was a pupil at the school, who inspired him to pursue it as a career.

The 63-year-old explained: “I was lucky we had a large number of staff who were always inspirational and great teachers, such as Philip Cartwright, Alan Bushnell, Miss Rylands, Miss Hughes and Mr Eglin “There have been changes, since I have been a teacher we have had to have more meetings, more paperwork, and Ofsted comes into play much more.”

It will not be the end of his involvement with the school. He will carry on as a governor, although switching from staff to a community governor.

And his plans for when he retires? “I’m going to play more golf, I’m a keen National Trust member so when my wife retires we will have more chance to visit those together, and I am going to spend a couple of hours on my first day off listening to Chris Evans on the radio. I never get the chance to hear the whole programme.”

Maragret Jones is retiring from Longfields Primary where she has worked for the last 30 years. Her role has been in the school office in the finance team and it is the school budget changes which she has noticed the most.

Mrs Jones said: “One thing that doesn’t change really is the children. They are clearly more “modern” and IT is a big focus now, but they are always fabulous characters.”

She said she has recently moved house and will spend time working on her new garden, but will continue to be a volunteer with the school and hopes to spend time travelling.


Oxford Mail:

  • Headteacher Maxine Evans, left, and  assistant headteacher Jenny Willett with a book and artwork created by the children 

ASSISTANT headteacher Jenny Willett leaves Rush Common School in Abingdon after 27 years and has been described as a top supporter of staff and children over the years.

The school’s headteacher Maxine Evans, who is also leaving her post, said Mrs Willett had helped train new teachers coming into the school.

She has supported about 40 trainees every year. Mrs Evans said: “She is tireless in the work she has done in helping the future of Oxfordshire’s education.”

Mrs Evans is stepping down from her post after 10 years, to work for the National Education Charity.

Chairman of the board of directors Alan Lane said: “Maxine and Jenny have both made a massive contribution to the success of this school.

“We shall all be very sad to see them leave, but we know that the strong team of staff they have built up, under the leadership of acting headteacher Laura Brown will continue to maintain the high standards they have set.”


Oxford Mail:

  • David Bell

FOR 30 years David Bell has taught children in Witney and is used to seeing his former pupils become the parents of a new intake of students. He is Henry Box School’s deputy headteacher and also manages the school’s sixth form.

Mr Bell will be back at the school next month when those pupils pick up their A Level results, a familiar face to the nervous teenagers.

The 60-year-old teaches geography has seen many now-famous faces pass through the school, including London 2012 Olympic torch designer Jay Osgerby and West End playwright Duncan Macmillan.

Mr Bell leaves the school after one of the most tragic moments of his career. Year 9 pupil, 14-year-old Liberty Baker, who he taught geography, was killed after a collision involving a car on her way to school on June 30.

He said: “It was such a tragedy. She was a really, really good student and a joy to teach.”

'Time has gone in a flash'

Oxford Mail:

  • DAVID Burrows

DAVID Burrows was appointed headteacher of Ladygrove Park Primary School in Didcot in September 1998 before the school opened the following April.

Fifteen years on, the 59-year-old father-of-one from Wantage, who lives with wife Dorothy and son Alex, 22, said: “My time here at the school really has gone by in a flash and that’s partly due to all the staff changes.

“It’s been a great job – the school has changed completely from those early days.

“But the children have always been brilliant and the parents so supportive. That’s why I’ve been there so long.”

Mr Burrows will become school advisor for Oxfordshire County Council.

Before Mr Burrows moved to the Ladygrove estate primary, he was headteacher at Uffington Primary School near Wantage, and before that he was deputy headteacher at Stockham Primary School in Wantage.

Looks familiar

Peter Cansell, 64, who is retiring as headteacher of Harwell Primary School after 15 years is in the main picture at the top of this article.

Mr Cansell, who lives in Wantage with wife Jill, has encouraged pupils at the school in The Styles to speak foreign languages and as a result French, Spanish, Italian, German and Japanese has been taught in the school.

He said: “Time has flown by and I am sorry to be leaving. There are 165 pupils at the school and we have strong links with a number of schools in Europe. I shall remain as chairman of the Oxfordshire Primary Headteachers’ Association.”

  • Stuart Norridge, Burford School, 39 years
  • Jenny Willets, Rush Common School, 27 years
  • David Bell, Henry Box School, 30 years
  • David Burrows, Ladygrove Primary, 15 years
  • Peter Cansell, Harwell Primary School, 31 years
  • Margaret Jones, Longfields County Primary School, 30 years
  • Damian Booth, St Edburg’s Primary School, 10 years