TECHNOLOGY may have changed, children may have come and gone, but there has been one ever present at Horsley Woodhouse Primary School – Hilary Shipley.
The much-loved head of the 125-pupil school has called time on her 27-year spell at its helm this week to take early retirement.
On Monday staff and students from past and present waved goodbye to Mrs Shipley, 58, at a emotional carol concert held in her honour.
The long serving head said: “I’m going to miss all my staff they have been really good friends and colleagues. They have been really supportive.
“I’m going to miss it so much. I have shed tears most days since half-term!”
On the surface Horsley Woodhouse Primary School has changed a lot since Mrs Shipley started there as a teacher in 1984.
She had previously worked at Loscoe Primary and was 31 at the time. Within five years she moved up to the position of deputy head and the following year she took over the top spot.
Back then the village school had just 71 pupils and the National Curriculum had only recently come into effect. Places of learning had just been given extra responsibilities in controlling their budgets under government reforms to education.
A computer room at the school contained only the early BBC home computers, which were limited in function and the focal point of every classroom was a simple chalk board.
Now Mrs Shipley says the school has hi-tech touch-screen ‘smart-boards’ and powerful computers in their place, and the education system has undergone countless reforms.
“The changes I’ve seen as a head teacher have been absolutely incredible,” Mrs Shipley added. “When you consider every new initiative and health and safety change, they’ve been mammoth really.”
But the primary school head managed to ride with the times well and has remained a popular figure in the village community.
“At the end of the day it is all about the children’s needs,” she said.
“The jobs that these youngsters are going to go into probably don’t even exist yet.
“But we try to give them skills like team building, being able to communicate, problem solving and listening to other people.
“That will never change - it is just how we teach them that which will change.”
Mrs Shipley’s staff held a surprise party for her last Friday in which the outgoing head was presented with a commissioned painting of the Church of St Just in Roseland, Cornwall, her favourite rural scene.
Mrs Shipley says the first thing she is going to do following her retirement this week is to visit her son James in Mexico.
The mantle of headteacher is to be passed to Liz Peach, formerly of Somerlea Park Junior School in Somercotes, when the new term starts in January.