AS Robert Sandilands Primary School celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, staff and pupils will be bidding a fond farewell to long-serving headteacher, Richard Blofeld.
He is stepping down at the end of the summer term after 23 years in the post, marking the end of an era for the school in Digby Road, Newbury.
He admitted he would find it difficult to say goodbye to the school, which he calls a “very special place”.
“It was not an easy decision to make,” he told the Newbury Weekly News. “Over that length of time you invest a hell of a lot of yourself in the place.
“It’s just a great place to be. It’s a special place.
“It’s never the right time to go, but linking it with the 50th, so the celebration is for the school rather than anything else, was the right thing.”
Speaking about his time at the school he said: “It’s been hard work.
“It’s been stressful occasionally, but it’s been a tremendous amount of good fun because of the opportunities that there are and the way you see children develop during their time at this school into free-thinking individual children who are ready for the next stage of their education – it’s just fabulous seeing that.”
Coming to West Berkshire in 1987 to take up a teaching post at Parsons Down Junior School in Thatcham, Mr Blofeld was then appointed head at Robert Sandilands in January 1994 – making him the longest-serving primary headteacher in the district.
Since then the school has excelled in sports such as cross country, football and swimming, as well as academically, with Mr Blofeld saying he was particularly proud of the recent Year 6 results.
Coupled with the progress in the classroom and on the sportsfield, the school has moved with the times during those 23 years.
Pupil numbers have more than doubled, while the school has expanded, with new classrooms and playgrounds added.
“When I came to this school there were five classes and a workforce of, I think, a dozen people and about 120 children.
“Now there’s in excess of 270 children in this school and a workforce in excess of 35 – and it’s oversubscribed year on year because parents want to send their children to this school.
“So as a legacy and what’s been created over time, I’m really proud of that, but you can’t do it on your own. It’s about the team that supports that vision and parents buying into what you’re trying to do.”
From the beginning of the next school year, the reins will be handed over to current deputy head Libby Bucknell and Mr Blofeld said he feels he is leaving the school on a positive footing.
Following his retirement, he hopes to be able to continue his role as branch secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT), a role he has performed for the last 11 years.
He said the landscape of education has changed significantly over the four decades since he took his first teaching job at a primary school in Hackney, London, in the early 1980s.
And while he admits the education sector is now is facing many difficulties, Mr Blofeld said he has lost none of his passion or drive in helping youngsters develop and succeed.
“I don’t feel that I’m any different to the guy who walked into a Year 6 classroom at Baden Powell School in 1981,” he said.
“The same things that were the motivating factor then motivate me now. It’s the same. It’s about the kids – it has to be.”
Paying tribute to Mr Blofeld, chair of governors Ian Nichol said: “I’ve known Richard for four years since I have been a governor and during that time I have come to appreciate his dedication to the school, but most particularly to the learning, development and welfare of the children.
“He has been a very inspirational headteacher and a great leader. He will be sorely missed.”
“I think he has left a very strong school community and a good, well developed senior management team of which Libby is part of.
“He has left the school in a very good place.”