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Kirton’s former Headteacher of the Year ready for ‘new adventure’ after announcing retirement

A former Headteacher of the Year is preparing for a ‘new exciting adventure’ as she bids farewell to education.

Kirton Primary School head Nicky Donley will retire at the end of the school year after 22 years in the ‘challenging’ role.

Over the past two decades Mrs Donley - who began life in electrical engineering before a fortuitous switch to the classroom - has overseen a number of changes to the village school, which has a roll of 550 pupils.

Nicky Donley collects her Headteacher of the Year award in 2022
Nicky Donley collects her Headteacher of the Year award in 2022

Among the eyecatching ideas introduced have been the school’s high street, which includes a bank, shop and cafe, where youngsters could work hard to earn currency called Kirts, which could be spent or saved.

In a bid to raise awareness of the environment, the school also has two huge glasshouses based on the Eden Project, housing Mediterranean and tropical biomes, a pond, vegetable patch, orchard and an outdoor classroom.

Innovative ideas like these - as well expansion seeing the school progress from two classes in each year to three - have led to the education centre being recognised with a number of national awards, including Mrs Donley being named Headteacher of the Year in 2022.

“I’ve been a headteacher for 22 years, so it’s probably time for a well-earned rest,” said Mrs Donley, 57, whose departure will be tinged with sadness.

“I’ve been here (at Kirton) for 17 years so I know the staff, the families, the children, the governors well - it’s all those relationships you build up.

“I’m really proud of the school. We’ve got the shop and the bank, the big glasshouses, we’ve won awards. It’s been great, and done with a great team.”

Mrs Donley retrained as a teacher after becoming a mother and fnding out electrical engineering ‘doesn’t fit in with children’.

After spending two years at Rippingale Primary School and a further three at Harrowby Primary School in Grantham, Mrs Donley took up a new challenge in Kirton.

Her role at Kirton had also seen Mrs Donley - whose five-year move from classroom tio headteacher was, at the time, the swiftest in the country - lead Boston Nursery School for 10 years up.

“I do chop and change quite a lot, so I didn’t think I’d be here this long when I first came,” Mrs Donley confessed.

“But the school’s gone from two form entry to three form entry, so that was a big project. Boston Nursery School was a big project. So I think that’s what’s kept me interested and challenged, I do like a challenge.”

Mrs Donley says her proudest achievement from her 17 years at Kirton has been ‘building her team’, which she describes as ‘Kirtonites through and through’.

“That’s what coming into school every day is about, those relationships you have with the people,” she added.

“They’re a great team and will continue to be great.

“Twenty-two years is a long time. It’s a stressful and challenging job and it’s time to let somebody else have ago.

“We have a fantastic head of school, Marc Neall. I’ve worked alongside him for years and he’s the right person to take over. He’s going to be great.”

And with the school in safe hands, Mrs Donley will now be able to spend her new-found free time travelling as well as with family, as she prepares to become agrandmother to twins later this year.

“It’s a whole new exciting adventure. It will be sad to leave here but I’ve got a lot to do,” she added.

“I’m looking forward to spending time with the family. And in September we’ll have three weeks in Jamaica, so when everybody else comes back we’ll be jetting out.”

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