'It's the community and children that have kept me here': Headteacher bids farewell to beloved school after 27 years

Jackie Egan is retiring as head teacher of Icknield Infants School in Letchworth today after 27 years

Jackie Egan is retiring as head teacher of Icknield Infants School in Letchworth today after 27 years - Credit: Danny Loo

Icknield Infant School's adored outgoing head today says goodbye to the school she has taught at for almost three decades.

Jackie Egan joined the Letchworth infants and nursery school 27 years ago, and never looked back.

Jackie Egan is retiring as Head Teacher from Icknield Infants School, Letchworth Garden City after 27 years

Outgoing Icknield Infants head Jackie Egan said that "it's been a privilege to be here and to watch the children grow, learn and become the young people that they are" throughout her tenure - Credit: Danny Loo

Although the feeling of being on her last day before retirement was "very strange", she told the Comet: "It's my time to go.

"It's been a privilege to be here and to watch the children grow, learn and become the young people that they are."

Jackie has been teaching for 38 years, and has spent 27 of her 32 years based in Hertfordshire teaching at Icknield, after a previous brief stint in Luton and in her native Scotland before settling at her forever home.

"There's just a feeling when you walk through the doors of this school. There's a feeling of nurture, care - it's just that ethos that makes you want to be here.

"There's something about the children. Children that give you so much back. Whatever small thing you do, they give you things back in abundance. It's just amazing."

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"There's always a job and something to do. I always talk to the pupils about their dreams and aspirations and about dreaming big, and I think that here, we dream big for our children, and there's always something else that we want to do for them."

And its those dreams and aspirations, Jackie says, that have kept her at Icknield.

"There's always something else to be doing, and I just want to do it for the children."

And though she insists she is one small part of a well-oiled machine of dedicated staff, Jackie is celebrated by her colleagues and those who know her as one not to do things by halves.

As well as growing the school in numbers and taking in pupils from Westbury School - which closed in January 2008 - Jackie was instrumental in establishing a children's centre at Icknield.

She is also commended and warmly remembered by those in the school community for launching inspiring initiatives such as the Library Bus, which was opened by children's author James Mayhew, and which continues to instil a love of reading in children across the school.

With her passion for learning always at the core of what she does, she launched a Forest School initiative, ensuring children from Nursery to Year 2 have weekly lessons where they learn skills such as fire-making, whittling and sawing .

And with birthday assemblies, end of school picnics and playground street parties among her roster of well-championed events, it seems that significant moments in the school calendar - as well as in her pupils' lives - never go amiss.

"Whatever you put in, you get it back in shedloads," Jackie added. "And with the children, whatever effort they put in, you should be giving them the same effort - and more - back, to show your appreciation for what they've learnt."

Mrs Egan does not just stop at being an advocate for her pupils. Giving back to the community that surrounds her school has been paramount, with children delivering harvest baskets to elderly residents, who were also always on the guest list for the annual Christmas plays.

"There have been challenges along the way, I'm not going to lie, but it's the community and children that have kept me here."

Although she stressed that she'll miss her colleagues and children - across the generations dearly, after an "exhausting" two years, Jackie is looking forward to "a wee rest" and unwinding by picking up a book - not particularly aimed at five-year-olds - and enjoying more trips back up to Scotland with her husband Hugh, who was a caretaker at Icknield before retiring last year.