Muswell Hill primary school headteacher retires after 18 years

A retiring headteacher who has taught thousands of children in her 18 years at the helm of a primary school has been given a jubilant week-long send-off by parents and pupils.

Friday was Christine Witham’s last day as head of Rhodes Avenue Primary School in Rhodes Avenue, Muswell Hill, and the halls were filled with a party atmosphere to celebrate her long tenure in the role.

Parents showed how much she will be missed by buying her and her husband a luxury trip to New York as a farewell gift, as well as naming the performance hall the Witham Hall in her honour.

Mrs Witham, 60, said: “That was very emotional, I didn’t expect it. It was an incredible send-off.”

The school was last year ranked in the top 100 primary schools in the UK based on its 2013 SATs results, and is a popular choice among Muswell Hill parents.

Mrs Witham will perhaps be remembered best for her commitment to the arts.

She said: “The heart of the vision is children. I’m proud of how we’ve held on to a broad and balanced curriculum, really valuing the arts and the extra-curricular.”

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She added she hopes her legacy will be one of “high expectations and high achievement”.

Her only regret on retirement is that Ofsted did not inspect the school before she left. It has been eight years since the school received its last full inspection, when it was ranked “outstanding”.

She said: “It would be nice to go out on an ‘outstanding’ but they just haven’t come: the school is in a very strong place.”

All last week, parents and pupils put on parties, assemblies and presentations to pay tribute to their beloved headteacher, as well as a football match between children and staff during which Mrs Witham scored a goal.

“Getting stuck in is absolutely important – that’s the most satisfying part of the job,” she said.

Mrs Witham, who lives in Islington, decided to step down to spend more time with her family and newly-born grandchild.

She will be replaced by Adrian Hall, currently headteacher at Churchfield Primary School in Enfield.

Mrs Witham said: “It’s time to hand it over, and let the new headteacher get his feet under the desk.

“It’s been an absolute honour and a privilege to be head of this school. I’m very proud of it.”