A retiring headteacher was presented with a stunning montage reflecting the values of her school and how it has changed during her 19 years at the helm.

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John Cox, chairman of the trustee governors at St Mary’s Church of England Primary School, in Mildenhall, said parents and staff owed Wendy Garrad a “tremendous debt of gratitude” for leading the school with “vision, inspiration and faith” for nearly two decades.

Having joined in 1995 after being headteacher of nearby Cheveley Church of England Primary School, the 57-year-old said as she left St Mary’s at the end of the summer term: “The job I now do is unrecogniseable from when I started.”

Technology has transformed the resources available to teachers but Mrs Garrad added that St Mary’s is “a completely different school to the one I took over” – not least because it has grown by more than a third during her tenure, from 300 pupils in 1995 to 420 pupils today.

Yet despite all the changes, Mrs Garrad said her enjoyment for the job never wavered.

“The joys are constantly being able to see the children grow and blossom,” she said.

The changes were reflected in a montage created by artist Heath Rosselli, who was commissioned to create a piece of artwork which depicts the school during Mrs Garrad’s time in charge.

In particular it is designed to show the school’s main values – to inspire, learn, value the achievement of all and celebrate the success of the young people.

“My aim has been to encapsulate the very special and happy atmosphere that I felt all around St Mary’s while I was there,” said Ms Rosselli as she presented the artwork to Mrs Garrad during her final week.

“I hope I have achieved that. I have enjoyed the whole project immensely.”

Mrs Garrad will be replaced by Colin Haley, who is moving to the area from Dorset.

She will be available to help him during his first term in the role and do a handover, but Mrs Garrad will stay very much behind the scenes to enable him to get on with his new role.

“It is good for the school to have someone new coming in,” Mrs Garrad said.

“I feel I’ve set all the foundations in place and that we have a strong leadership team.

“It is the perfect time for me to stand down.”

In a statement in the school’s newsletter, Mr Cox added: “It is with sadness that we see her go but we wish her well in all that she does in the future.

“We all owe her a tremendous debt of gratitude. During the 19 years that she has been the headteacher and then principal, she has led the school with vision, inspiration and faith.

“She has seen through a number of major building projects that have transformed the learning environment. At the heart of all that she has done has been a deep concern for the well-being of the children.

“Generations of pupils have every reason to be grateful to her.”

Have you got a long-serving colleague who is retiring? Email newsdesk@archant.co.uk

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