Headteacher Suzanne Seaton – only the third since Westlea Primary School opened in 1983 – is retiring at Christmas after being in post for 15 years.
The continuity at Westlea is remarkable with the second and third headteachers both previously being deputies at the school.
Alan Lovell opened the school with Neil Griffiths as his deputy who in turn took over as headteacher in 1989, to be followed by Mrs Seaton.
She said: “I came here as deputy to Neil in 1993 but it only seems like two minutes ago. I will feel very sad to leave but I’ve had enough of the Government not letting teachers get on with their jobs.”
Pictured in 2012: Suzanne with former pupil and paralympic torch carrier Ben Fox
Describing her legacy Suzanne said: “I’m leaving a school which has a good ethos, good results, a good reputation in the community it serves, and a very happy band of children, parents and staff. I will miss them all a lot.
"The atmosphere and ethos at Westlea hasn’t changed a great deal over the years. It’s a very hard working, caring and happy school which puts children right at the centre of everything we do.
"I learnt a lot from Neil’s dedication to children and it’s been my pleasure to develop his philosophy into the fabric of Westlea.
"It think this is reflected in all who work at the school, there’s a very low turnover in staff and I know those who leave take the Westlea approach to their new positions.”
Westlea primary is the only original West Swindon primary built by the local education authority which has not been replaced by a more modern school. "After 30 years the classrooms are still fit for purpose but overall the school is lacking features like meeting rooms, group work space and storage that newer schools have," said Suzanne.
"At one time we had 14 mobiles buildings in the grounds to cope with the baby bulge of the 1980s and 1990s. They’ve all gone, perhaps not for the best because they were replaced by a separate brick building without their own toilets."
Current headteacher Sarah Sumner, who was appointed by Suzanne as an NQT (Newly Qualified Teacher) in 2004, said: "It’s hard to know where to start. Suzanne puts children at the centre of everything, whether it is learning, the school’s culture, or music. It’s her vision and drive that impresses all the staff, and her willingness to lead by example. It could be suddenly stepping into take a class or she could be found cleaning up the toilets if there’s been an accident.
Suzanne is planning to get away from everything on a luxury cruise to start her retirement. She said: “We set off on the Queen Elizabeth II on 10 January. I’m looking forward to sailing into New York, along the Panama Canal and under the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.
“After that I haven’t a clue what I’ll be doing. Hopefully it will be lots of reading, walking, cooking and rediscovering parts of the UK.
"But, without doubt, it’s going to be very strange to leave. I’m going to miss a very happy band of children, parents and staff a lot”
Suzanne’s successor is Rose Carbury, currently at the University of Worcestershire.