When Cherry Edwards OBE (65) takes her last assembly at Bourne Abbey Primary Academy in two weeks’ time, she will struggle to keep her emotions in check.
The school’s executive headteacher for the past 12 years, during which it has twice been judged “outstanding” by Ofsted, Mrs Edwards will hand over the reins of the church school and Bourne Elsea Park Primary Academy to her daughter Sarah Moore.
But until then, Wales-born Mrs Edwards will maintain a “busines as usual” approach in guiding both schools through the ever-changing world of primary education.
Mrs Edwards, who has two daughters and four grandchildren, said: “The decision to retire was made gradually and it took a couple of years to make the final call.
“I’m in my 65th year and I have a loving husband who would like to spend time with me, on a more flexible basis than just over the school holidays. “But it wasn’t an easy decision because I truly adore my job and I’m extremely committed to providing an outstanding quality of education for young children.
“I’ve always had a passion for teaching and I think I have a natural affinity with young children who I interact well with, value, respect and see the potential in.
In my opinion and in the opinion of the governors, Cherry Edwards really is one of the most outstanding headteachers across the primary school sector in the country, not just in Lincolnshire.Chairman of governors John Kirkman
“Therefore, I do want to continue making a contribution to education because I still feel that I have the level of passion and experience with regards to it.
“But I’ll take some time to consider what my contribution will be because I have my grandchildren who I wish to spend some of my time with.”
Mrs Edwards’ teaching ambitions first emerged when she was at secondary school and they developed while she was living in North Yorkshire.
“I started off in a village school where I became a deputy headteacher until the head at the time went off to university,” Mrs Edwards said.
“Then I became a substantive headteacher (of more than one school) at another village school until I was seconded to do a master’s degree at Durham University.
“After that, I went into headship at a large school in North Yorkshire until we moved to the Midlands as a family at a time when I was passionate about taking over a school which really needed help and support.”
This unique desire took Mrs Edwards to Lambeth in south London and a school which was described as one which was “in great difficulty“.
But after winning the trust and confidence of colleagues and Lambeth Borough Council officials, Mrs Edwards proved herself more than capable of turning round a failing school which was when a move back to the Midlands beckoned.
“The headship of Bourne Abbey, which was the first grant-maintained (funded directly by central government) school in the country, came up and when I arrived, it was a good school which had many positive points about it.
“But there were a number of areas where it needed to develop further and along with my team of staff, governors and parents, we’ve moved the school forward.
“It was about making sure that we didn’t change everything but instead looking at what would work well within the school.”
Twelve years on from her first day at Bourne Abbey, Mrs Edwards and the school can point to an enviable record that includes outstanding Ofsted reports in 2007 and 2010, Church of England status in 2008, academy status in 2010 and National Teaching School status in September 2014.
At the same time as Bourne Abbey became a beacon school for teacher training and development across Lincolnshire, Bourne Elsea Park Primary Academy opened its doors under head of school Sarah Copsey.
Mrs Edwards said: “One of the most powerful vehicles for moving education forward, both in Lincolnshire and across the country, is school-to-school improvement.
“Schools are working together to help each other improve and it’s absolutely moving forward at pace, with an expectation for all schools to be part of it.
“Bourne Abbey is a very well-established school in the town and for 150 years, a great many people have worked very hard to provide children with a great education. I’m very proud to have been a part of that and I know that the school will grow and move forward.”
• The sizable contribution made by Cherry Edwards at both Bourne Abbey and Bourne Elsea Park Primary Academies has been acknowledged by chairman of governors John Kirkman.
He said: “In my opinion and in the opinion of the governors, Cherry Edwards really is one of the most outstanding headteachers across the primary school sector in the country, not just in Lincolnshire.
“Cherry is certainly in the top group because, ever since first coming here, she has led Bourne Abbey to its outstanding Ofsted judgement.
“She has also been very heavily involved in achieving both church school and academy status, the successful application to be responsible for the third primary school in Bourne (Elsea Park) and academy status as well.
“Cherry has led both schools with drive, determination and success, enabling Bourne Abbey to remain one of the best primary schools in the country.”
“She is an inspirational leader.”