Popular headteacher retires after more than two decades at South Shields primary school

A popular headteacher has retired after more than two decades at a South Shields school.

Thursday, 2nd January 2020, 4:45 pm
Updated Thursday, 2nd January 2020, 6:01 pm

Ken Smithson has been at the helm of St Gregory’s RC VA Primary School in South Shields for almost 26 years, since joining in February 1994.

He announced his retirement in September following a teaching career which has spanned more than 40 years - 31 of those as a headteacher - to spend more time with his family.

School children led a special surprise farewell assembly for Mr Smithson on the last day of term, Friday, December 20, which included songs, poems, speeches and dances paying tribute to their much-loved head.

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Ken Smithson has retired after 26 years at St Gregory's RC VA Primary School.

In addition, his colleagues organised a buffet reception on Thursday, December 19, for all of the friends, colleagues and past pupils he has worked with over the years.

“It has been a wonderful honour and a privilege to serve this fantastic community for so long and I have a treasure trove of happy memories to look back on,” he said.

“I have been overwhelmed by the avalanche of kind thoughtful and inspiring messages I have received in cards, also comments made in conversations with children and parents, these past weeks, that have touched me deeply and will live with me for evermore.”

Mr Smithson went on to thank the staff and children for their efforts, describing his send off as “fit for a king”.

Ken Smithson with his wife at his farewell assembly on Friday, December 20.

He added: “I have been very lucky in my schools across the years but especially so here at St Gregory’s, but all good things have to come to an end and I know that I leave the school in a good place and can look back with fondness on all that we have achieved together over the years.”

In a letter to parents, the head had previously expressed concern over the future of the school after it was announced in October that the Diocese of Hexham and Newcastle would be split into four regional Multi Academy Trusts (MAT).

Deputy headteacher, Kath Wilson, commented: “Ken has been an inspirational headteacher and a truly great school leader. He will be a tremendous miss to St Gregory’s, and we all wish him well in his well earned retirement.”

Ken Smithson at his surprise farewell assembly on Friday, December 20.
Ken Smithson cuts the cake at his farewell buffet reception on Thursday, December 19.
Ken Smithson is presented with his leaving gift, a signed Sunderland AFC strip, as he has been a lifelong fan.