Head teacher Tony bows out after 31 years at same primary school

Published on: 01 Aug 2016

Tony

PUPILS have bid a fond farewell to their head teacher who has retired after 31 years.

Downend born Tony Phillips started at Chester Park Junior School in Fishponds as a newly qualified teacher in 1985 after graduating with a teaching degree from the old Bristol Polytechnic.

He was promoted to deputy head and, in 2006, was appointed headteacher, a role in which he has remained in ever since.

Mr Phillips, 57, is affectionately known by pupils for his colourful ties which have become somewhat of a trademark.

"I started taking an interest in the ties I wore because children used to like it if I wore different kinds of ties," he said.

"It grew to the point that when children left the school they would give me a tie. My collection grew and we even began to use them as a resource for maths. 

"When I had been at the school for 25 years I went to a celebration assembly and unbeknown to me each of the children were wearing one of my ties. I now have enough ties to wear a different one every day of the year! I've got a chest with eight drawers just for my ties!"

The school held numerous celebrations to mark Mr Phillips' retirement including a tea party with pupils and parents and a gathering of friends, governors and current and ex-colleagues.

He was also presented with an unusual 24-hour one-hand watch, pen and glass ornament, a copy of the striking inuksuk statue in Chester Park's playground.

During a special assembly on the Thursday before the end of term, children and staff surprised him by making and wearing cardboard ties in the primary colours of each year group.

Mr Phillips will look back at his time at the school with fond memories, particularly as he met his wife Hilary there.

He said: "Hilary was a teacher at the infant school next door and due to building work her class had to be put into the juniors so that's how we met and got to know each other. The rest is history!"

According to Mr Phillips, who has two step-children, Jenny, 39, and Sally, 37, and four grandchildren aged 10, eight, two and seven-months, his career hasn't all been plain sailing.

"The most challenging thing has been the issues around the new build and the difficulties of getting it sorted as well as trying to teach and run a school. The changes in expectations of inspections has also been quite challenging as well as the changing education climate.

"The thing that remains the most constant is that children are children and they stay the same no matter what happens. I will miss them because I think the children of Fishponds are really rather special, which is why I've stayed here for so long.

"I will also miss the fact that we have such a fantastic team. All the people I work with are really brilliant and I'm sure that will carry on after I'm gone."

Mr Phillips has spent the lead up to his retirement reminiscing about his career.

"The diversity of the population in the school has been the thing which has changed the most over the 31 years," he said.

"It's been a complete joy to have so many different children from so many different backgrounds. That's helped to really enrich the school because it's the diversity of cultures which allows us to have such an interesting and exciting place for children to learn."

Mr Phillips has remained faithful to the area he was born and bred in.

"I now live about 100 yards from where I was born in Downend and about 50 yards from where I grew up - so I haven't moved very far in all those years!" he said.

Mr Phillips' spare time will now be taken up with art as his passion is painting, travelling and spending more time with grandchildren.

"Hilary and I will be looking after our grandchildren and taking them to their school in the mornings - the difference will be I won't be staying there all day!"

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