A deputy head, teachers, a governor and a PTA member shut the school gates behind them for the last time as the academic year came to a close. Saiqa Chaudhari reports.

IT was Catherine Walker’s passion to help children develop into bright young citizens that drew her to teaching — and it is the youngsters she will miss the most.

Now the deputy headteacher has retired after chalking up 24 years at Eatock Primary School in Westhoughton, where she first started as nursery teacher.

Mrs Walker, aged 59, said it was the “ethos” of the school which kept her at Eatock for more than two decades.

She said: “It is so caring and nurturing. Everybody is there for everybody else and always putting the children first.

“They learn through fun and play and develop into lovely children.”

Mrs Walker said it was her love of children which attracted to the profession, to give them the opportunity to learn while playing and having fun.

She added: “I will miss the staff and the children, but the children the most.

“I have made many friends while here, but I am looking forward to walking and gardening, which are my hobbies.”

School governor Mary Mason has decided to retire from the “board” at Devonshire Road Primary School, Bolton, after 20 years at the age of 90.

The former director of social services became a school governor after becoming a local councillor.

She continued to serve after retiring as a councillor in 1998, the year she also returned to Cambridge University to pick up her degree 52 years after completing her studies.

Miss Mason missed out first time round because Cambridge refused to award full degrees to female students until 1948.

The university marked the 50th anniversary of the milestone decision with a mass ceremony for 900 women who completed their exams before this date.

She said: “Devonshire Road is an extremely good school. There is always a happy atmosphere.

"I have seen three headteachers and, as a governor, it was important to be supportive and encouraging. The school is fortunate to have had good headteachers.”

As a thank you for her hard work, Miss Mason was presented with a book with a message from every child, with the youngest drawing a picture of her.

She said: “It was so unexpected and so lovely. It is something I will really treasure.”

Headteacher Pam Barnes added: “She has been involved in the school for a long time. She would come in to help children with reading and the children loved reading to her”

Other teachers looking forward to retirement include Susan Jones, a teacher at The Ferns Academy in Farnworth, where Lynda Jones, of the school’s Parents, Teachers and Friends Association also retired.

Alison Weatherly, who is the reception teacher at St Matthews CE Primary School in Halliwell, is also retiring after teaching at the school for 29 years.