Headteacher retired from Ellingham and Woodton

Woodton and Ellingham primary school head teacher Pauline McGowan is set to retire at the end of ter

Woodton and Ellingham primary school head teacher Pauline McGowan is set to retire at the end of term.Pauline with the year six leavers at Ellingham primary. - Credit: Nick Butcher

A headteacher who has been the lynchpin of two popular Norfolk schools for more than 15 years is retiring.

As leader of both Ellingham and Woodton Primary Schools, Pauline McGowen is one of only two headteachers in the county to have taken up such a role.

Over the past 16 years Mrs McGowan has been instrumental in the whole changing shape of both schools, including overseeing large extensions to each building and new modern classrooms.

Ellingham Primary School is also a leading eco school, having achieved ambassador status and the international flag flies high outside for the work in teaching children about world affairs.

Mrs McGowan, 61, began her career at Hartismere High School in Eye, eventually becoming head of the lower school.

As part of her role she was tasked with visiting primary feeder schools, which she loved.

After 10 years she left to pursue a career in agriculture and while her daughter Sarah was growing up she focused her attentions on her passion for decoy carving, setting up her own studio and running classes and courses.

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She eventually returned to education in 1994 and took a job as a primary teacher at a school in Dickleburgh, until she became headteacher at Ellingham in 1997.

Four years later she was asked to oversee Woodton for an interim period, but after efforts were made to find a replacement, the LEA decided it would like MrsGowan to continue in the role.

Mrs McGowan said: “I was asked to look after Woodton for a term and I’ve been looking after it ever since, that was 12 years ago and the schools were federated 18 months ago.”

During her retirement is keen to return to her artist roots of acryllic and pencil painting and woodcarving.

She said: “I’ve been thinking about it for a couple of years. My daughter is at the Norwich University of Art and I’m getting on a bit. There are lots of things that I would like to do and I have bought a house in France.

“It’s in the south west, not far from Lourdes and I’m going to do it up. It’s an old French farmhouse and the loft space is beautiful so I’m going to convert it into a studio and hopefully do art classes. I’m going to keep a house here for my daughter and to come back to if I don’t like it.

“I don’t think I’ll miss school until September, until they start back and then I shall have to keep myself busy.

“I’ve been putting things off as school takes over your life, but there is so much I want to do.

“More than anything I will miss the children. I was still teaching an afternoon a week with years five and six Swallows as I wanted to carry on and Swallows used to be my class.”

Mrs McGowen was given a special send-off by children from both schools during an assembly at Ellingham on Tuesday.

A locum headteacher will fill the post until January when a new federated head starts.