Popular Ilfracombe headteacher retires after 25 years

Joseph Bulmer

Christine Thompson steps down at the end of the Christmas term after 10 years as head of Ilfracombe Infants School.

THE popular headteacher of Ilfracombe Infants School is retiring at the end of term after devoting 25 years and her entire teaching career to the school.

Christine Thompson joined as a newly qualified teacher in 1986, later spending two years as deputy before serving at its head for the past decade.

She will be handing the reins to deputy head Theresa Hodge, who will be taking over as headteacher in the new year.

The school has won a stack of honours during her tenure, including currently being ranked as “outstanding” by education inspectors Ofsted, while Key Stage 1 results are rated the second best in the whole of Devon and have remained significantly above national average for the past eight years.

In 2007 Christine was named Primary Headteacher of the Year for the South West at the annual Teaching Awards and shortlisted as a national finalist.

Other accolades included a Gold Artsmark Award as well as a Healthy School Plus and Investors in people awards, while in 2009 it reached the national finals of the Times Educational Supplement primary school of the year awards.

Christine has always remained unfailingly modest about these achievements and told the Gazette: “It’s not about me, it is about the children and what we have achieved for them.

“The Ofsted report was a real ‘wow’ moment. It was about the whole school community, the staff, governors and the support we get from our parents would be very hard to match.

“It has been a privilege to work at Ilfracombe Infants and I have an endless amount of happy memories to keep me going for a long time ahead into retirement.

“I have met and worked with the very best people, dedicated individuals who work tirelessly to meet the needs of our children.”

Christine did not begin teacher training until she was 28 and qualified at the age of 32. She and her husband Garry moved to Ilfracombe from Birmingham and he also taught in the town, working at Ilfracombe junior School until retirement two years ago.

She specialised in creative arts and has always worked to bring that into her teaching and the life of the school.

Her mentor and inspiration at Ilfracombe was previous head Mary Trewin, who passed away in 2005 but left a huge mark on the school and her successor:

“She was the most positive influence over my whole career and I have much to thank her for,” added Christine.

Mary’s drive saw the school win funding in 1998 to refit and extend the old Victorian building and do away with the six much-detested outdoor classrooms it had been forced to use.

“In everything you do, the children come first and in every decision you have to make, they are part of that,” said Christine.

“It has had its highs and lows, its ups and downs, but it has been the best rollercoaster ride ever.”