Very shortly I am going to go down the lane for the last time to collect my youngest daughter from the village school. We had the Leavers’ Service this morning, followed by coffee and biscuits decorated by the children with icing and fruit and all sorts of wonderful things. Presents were handed out to teachers; videos and photos were taken.
I have been going to Leavers’ Services at the school for six years now. I have had two previous ones which have directly involved my own children (E in 2006, G in 2007), and now little L. It seems only yesterday she was in a pushchair while her oldest sister set out on the educational road. These first footsteps are so important, and so poignant. But if seeing your little ones step into school for the first time is hard enough, having to see them step out for the last time I think is even harder. Our village school, you see, is only an Infants School, so they are only 7 when they leave it to move on to the next stage. It is also tiny (just 24 pupils) and so has a very intimate, family atmosphere. Living in the village, as we do, means it is extra special to us.
I think I have been dreading this moment for all of those six years, which is perhaps why, now the moment has finally come, I have not been as all over the shop emotionally as I had feared. I have been thinking about this for so long, mentally and emotionally steeling myself for the final farewell. It was potentially made worse by the fact that the Head Teacher, whom I hold in high regard and with whom I’ve enjoyed a very good relationship, is leaving too today after 13 years at the helm. She has done a marvellous job – always so far ahead of her game and therefore keeping up the phenomenal standards of the school. I will never forget the first moment N and I met her: we had come up to look at the house we were going to buy and were just exploring the village when we noticed what looked like a village hall. To our amazement, we then saw that it was also an infant school – and at 4.30pm on a dark dank November night, the lights were cheerily blazing. We knocked on the door and Mrs Curry came to answer it. They had just finished computer club. We said we were likely to be buying a house in the village and that we had three young daughters, the oldest of which was just coming up to school age. She was nothing but welcoming and enthusiastic and we were so struck by her and the evident quality of this little school, buried away in the Peak District countryside, that we asked her if she had plans to move on in the near future. She made a quick calculation (she later revealed to us) and said, ‘No’. She had already decided that this was where she wanted to end her career and she had six years left to go. Perfect for our girls.
And so here we are on 24th July 2009. It is the end of an era for us, for our children, and for Mrs Curry. I drew and painted a picture of the school for her which I put in a frame and I made up a photo collage on canvas from the photographs I have gathered over the years. It seemed the only appropriate gift and it was lovely to see her obvious pleasure at receiving these physical memories to take away with her.
For my own part, I received a beautiful lavender plant and a token, and a certificate ‘For outstanding levels of hard work and achievement in our school vegetable garden’! (This is a project I started this year and hope to continue – more of that another time – but it has given me immense pleasure, so this light-hearted ‘award’ and gift could not have delighted me more.)
And so it is now 3 o’clock and I am going to walk down that lane to school for the last time. Think of me as I say my last goodbyes. It is not going to be easy. In fact, maybe only now, in the very moment that I write this, the reality is only just hitting. I admit it, I now have tears streaming down my face. I hate endings and I hate goodbyes. Although the future has so much still to bring, it is so very very hard to let go of such a huge part of our life in the High Peak since our arrival here on 31st May 2003.
Class of 2006