A POPULAR headteacher will retire this week after nearly 13 years at the helm of the school he has led from the day it opened.

Simon Cushing will leave Great Binfields Primary School, in Binfields Farm Lane, Chineham, today after enjoying a 36-year teaching career, during which he also led Oakridge Junior School, in Oakridge Road, Basingstoke.

When asked about his time at Great Binfields, he said: “It was a sad day to leave Oakridge Junior School but an opportunity like this doesn’t come up often – to have a brand new school to open, to set it up and to pick my staff. I was really lucky and I got good quality staff in, and five of them are still here today.”

The school has grown in size since it opened in 2001 – it started with 210 pupils and 270 are now expected to be there in September.

Father-of-two Mr Cushing is proud of how the school has come on, adding: “My biggest achievement has been getting a brand new building, and it is still looking good.

“It is the nicest school building apart from the new one that will be in Rooksdown. This is just lovely – it has been built with flair and it is flair that has worked.”

Speaking about his career, Mr Cushing said: “I have tried to make the kids feel valued because children need to feel valued to move forward. This school gets kids because we have an understanding of tolerance and compassion, and we value children for what they might be.

“A highlight has been watching kids grow and walk out, and I have seen some really great moments when I think kids have really grown during their seven years here. You see them come in as a four-year-old and become a confident 11-year-old, and that’s the best bit.”

The 57-year-old believes now is the right time to leave the school. His wife, Jan Cushing, who was headteacher of Manor Field Junior School, in Haydn Road, Brighton Hill, retired in December.

Mr Cushing said: “I am retiring because I want to bow out before I become boring. I am looking forward to it because I can help my daughter with her new house and I can sort out my vintage cars. I will miss the children – that’s going to be the hardest thing because they are my driving force.

“I won’t miss Ofsted, and their focus – I don’t believe that is what it should be about. The focus should be the wellbeing and encouragement of children.”

The popular headteacher, who enjoyed a retirement party on Monday, has faith in his successor, Jules Rogers, who is currently deputy headteacher at Anton Junior School, Andover.

He said: “She wants to make an exciting curriculum and we have already got that here, and because of her relative youth against myself, she will put her energy into sharpening that up.”