POPULAR teaching assistant Julia Chamberlain is leaving her schooldays behind her.

The 58-year-old has worked at St Peter and St Paul’s RC School since she first qualified in 1975.

And now, 39 years later, she has left the Pilkington Street school following an emotional goodbye.

The mother of three grown-up children and six grandchildren, who lives in Heaton, said: “The last day was emotional, more than I thought it would be.

“There was an assembly the day before and I got quite upset then, so I thought the actual day would be different.”

Mrs Chamberlain started at the school as a nursery nurse in 1975, before becoming a teaching assistant when the titles were changed.

She added: “The school is so friendly and I think that some of family had attended here in the past and my children came here — which was interesting because one kept calling my Mrs Chamberlain when at home too.”

Mrs Chamberlain worked with nursery and reception children.

She said: “I have always enjoyed working with the younger ones, they are so engaging.

“My grandchildren are aged from three months to six years, so I will be busy with them and spending time with the family is one of the reasons I decided to retire now.”

Mrs Chamberlain says the extra time will also allow her to pursue her interests, including family history and possibly voluntary work.

Vanessa Knowles, deputy head, said: “Julia taught large numbers of pupils, parents and grandparents.

“Throughout her time she was always willing to support us in any way. She successfully developed our Let’s Get Cooking project. She was a keen gardener and encouraged our children to grow their own vegetables.

“In school we now have vegetable plots. The children grow, pick and then cook the produce.”

“She will be missed by everyone as she was a big part of our family.”

On her last day Mrs Chamberlain was presented with cards from the pupils, which she has transformed into a book as a lasting keepsake, as well as flowers and other gifts.

And there was a special cake to celebrate her years in school.