School says farewell to outstanding head

Mary Watts with pupils and staff at Appleton Primary School

Mary Watts with pupils and staff at Appleton Primary School

First published in News Herald Series: Photograph of the Author by

A HEADTEACHER who turned an Oxfordshire primary school into an outstanding-rated institution is retiring.

When Mary Watts first joined Appleton Primary School 11 years ago it was rated as good by schools inspectorate Ofsted.

Since then she has worked to improve the school and in 2008 an inspector rated it as outstanding in every single category.

Mrs Watts, who first became a primary school teacher in the 1970s, will retire on Friday.

For the past five years she has also been working in a part-time capacity with other schools as a schools improvements officer for Oxfordshire County Council.

Mrs Watts said: “I will be very sad but also very proud that the school is in a position where someone can take over and continue to do a great job.

“There will be lots and lots of memories on Friday and almost all of them are really good ones. It has been the best job in the world.”

Mrs Watts began her career as a primary school teacher in County Durham in the 1970s.

Her husband, Professor Anthony Watts, is an academic and she moved with him to Canada and New York in the 1970s as he changed institutions.

In 1990, Mr Watts took up a post as professor of geophysics at Oxford University and Mrs Watts became a teacher at Dr South's Primary School in Islip.

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She became headteacher at Appleton Primary School in January 2001 and oversaw a move to train the school’s teachers to become leaders.

She said: “We now run programmes for other schools to help them move their teaching and learning from satisfactory to good and then to outstanding.

“We are a very outward-looking school and have always supported other schools. We have a lot of visitors who come and see us teach.”

During her time as headteacher, Mrs Watts has also helped the school expand from 120 pupils to 164 and increase the number of buildings on the site.

She said: “I think every child has the right to have the best possible education we can give them and the best possible opportunities we can give them.

“The team here is incredibly strong and we are all committed to helping children. Our success is through good teaching and having fun.”

In 2008, the work paid off and led to Ofsted heaping raise on the school.

The inspector said: “Pupils flourish beyond the expectations of many parents because they are given 'wings to fly'.

“At its heart lies an extremely caring Christian ethos in which pupils are known inside out, cared for exceptionally well, achieve very high standards and develop very well spiritually, morally, socially and culturally.”

Mrs Watts hopes to use her retirement to spend more time travelling the world with her husband but will continue to work for the county council.

Assistant headteacher Annabel Brown will take over the top role at Appleton Primary School from September.

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