End of an era for two village schools as head counts down to retirement

Lucy Bates headteacher at Ormesby Infant and Junior Schools said day one of the schools' reopening h

Lucy Bates, headteacher at Ormesby infant and junior schools is retiring at the end of the summer term 2021. - Credit: Picture: Nick Butcher

There is a chance - and one which Lucy Bates hardly dare acknowledge - that she will walk out of the door at the end of the summer term to a few whispered goodbyes and the clunk of a key in the lock.

In the normal course of events, after 16 years at the helm, there would have been numerous events to mark her retirement alongside the usual summer calendar of sports' days and concerts culminating in a final three nights spent away at How Hill.

Even under the Government's roadmap which predicts, with a fair wind, all restrictions will be lifted by June 21, she is dubious - a potentially damp squib of a finale after decades in the classroom and a "challenging" final year.

Mrs Bates will be 59 when when she bows out in July, heralding "a new era" for the infant and junior schools in Ormesby she has presided over as one.

Flitting about the split site has meant she has barely thought about anything else, such is her passion and commitment to the job she loves.

And while she says there would probably never be a good time to go, she has decided it will be at the end of this school year.

"I like to think that whatever I have done wrong - and I am sure there are lots of things I have not done well - I would like to hope that the children and parents know that I have cared passionately about them.

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"I like to hope that I have welcomed everybody and that the children know they are valued and cared for because those are the things that matter more than anything.

"They have to feel safe and secure to be able to learn well - that has always been my philosophy.

"Covid has been challenging," she added.

"The schools have never been shut and there has been a lot of anxiety about whether our systems are robust enough.

"Whatever you do you know you cannot please everyone and that is quite stressful."

In Ormesby the biggest challenge was the falling roll, she said.

"I have loved that it is a village school. We have so much green around us, it's like being part of a family.

"It is going to be very difficult to walk away."

Mrs Bates was born in Norfolk and gained a degree in classics from King's College, Cambridge.

She taught in London before returning to the county with  husband Bob.

The couple live in Skeyton, near North Walsham, and have two children.

Having asked her pupils what  they would look for in a new head they declared a preference for someone who was good at making Tik-Tok videos and at a baking -  skills Mrs Bates said she had not yet mastered, joking that she had let them down on both counts.

"It doesn't feel real," she added.

"I will be going in a year that's not a normal year."

Mrs Bates worked at Attleborough Infants' School and was deputy head at Eaton Primary.

She came to Ormesby in 2004, initially as head at the infant school, taking on the juniors in 2014 when Debbie Whiting moved to North Denes.

"Being head across the two schools was lovely for me," she said.

"It gave me the opportunity to do something new and more challenging without having to start from scratch."