Fond farewell for pioneering executive head of Hainford and Frettenham primary schools
- Credit: Archant © 2013
Parents and pupils past and present gathered to say a fond farewell to a headteacher whose example of leading two schools has been adopted as a way of keeping village schools open.
Judith Elliott-Hunter was already head of Hainford Primary School, near Coltishall, when she also took the reins at nearby Frettenham in 2000, the first in the current trend of school federations.
Similar arrangements were developed between Hevingham and Mar-sham, and Ellingham and Woodton primaries at about the same time.
Mrs Elliott-Hunter said: 'One of the challenges is that you need to keep the character of both schools. You are not trying to make them the same school, but keep them as individual village schools.
'We put them together for some things and keep them separate for others. I looked at the things that were dearest to the hearts of each school and kept them, and pinched the good ideas from both schools.'
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She said that, historically, children at Frettenham had called members of staff by their first names.
She said: 'Whilst unusual, it was something that was very dear to the heart of the school. I had to decide whether to change that and I decided not to because it's very important. It's not what you call the teachers that is important, but the quality of the relationship.'
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Similarly, she kept the tradition of country dancing and a strawberry tea at Hainford, which she said could not be done at Frettenham.
She said an executive head works best when it is a non-teaching role, and that while she used to do two jobs in one place, she now did one in two locations.
She said that as the local authority saw the three initial federations succeed, and found it hard to replace retiring heads, it started to broker more partnerships between governing bodies.
She added: 'I think it's very important to keep village schools open and for children to have the first experience in a village school and not have to be bussed anywhere else.
'What you have to do is make sure they are not missing out on anything. We have made sure over the years that we have an outstanding curriculum at both schools.'
Yesterday's events included a church service, a picnic and cakes baked by former-pupil and celebrity chef Galton Blackiston.
Mrs Elliott-Hunter said her first priority in retirement would be to do nothing – 'because I have never had any time off for good behaviour'.