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Headteachers retire after a combined 70 years’ service

16 July 2020

Two primary school headteachers – who have more than seven decades of teaching between them – are retiring this week.

Sam Dixon from St Peter’s School, and Sonia Burton from Bel Royal School, will be saying goodbye to the teaching profession when the summer term ends on Thursday [16 July].

Mrs Dixon, who has been a teacher for 30 years, began her career at First Tower School in September 1990. She taught at the school for 15 years where she was the lead for lower Key Stage 2 before she moved to Janvrin School in 2005. Mrs Dixon then moved to St Saviour’s Primary School in 2008 as deputy headteacher where she worked with children with social and communication issues for nine years.

Mrs Dixon, who has been headteacher at St Peter’s School since January 2017, said: "I have mixed emotions to be retiring early from the profession, as teaching has been my life for the past 30 years, but I am very excited to be starting the next chapter of my life. I had a life-threatening experience in 2010, when I had a sudden brain hemorrhage, which resulted me in being off school for six months early in my deputy headship, so I feel fortunate to have made a full recovery and become headteacher, and now intend to make the most of my retirement years and enjoy a slower pace of life.

"St Peter’s is a fantastic supportive community of staff, pupils and parents and I will miss them all greatly. I’ve had so many highlights during my career, but nothing quite beats meeting someone you taught and supported through troubled times, and discovering that they still remember you and have gone on to university or have got a good job. That makes all the hard work worthwhile."

Mrs Dixon added that she is looking forward to moving to Grasmere in the Lake District with her husband Adrian, a former teacher, where they will be able to spend their time walking and climbing and visiting their children Chris and Kelly who will both be living in the UK.

In September, Vicki Charlesworth, who is headteacher at Les Landes School, will become Leading Headteacher at St Peter’s School, under a pilot initiative announced last month which will form a new partnership between the two schools. The role of Leading Headteacher is new to Jersey. Its main purpose is to establish a formal collaboration across two schools: the school of the successful applicant paired with a school with an imminent headteacher vacancy.

Mrs Burton qualified as a teacher in 1979 and began working at an all-girls comprehensive school with more than 1,000 pupils in Stratford, London. She returned to teach in Jersey in 1985 and has taught at several schools including St Mark’s School and Les Landes School. She became deputy head at Bel Royal School in 1990. When the headteacher, Paddy Cullinane, was seconded to the Education Department prior to his retirement, Mrs Burton was initially appointed acting headteacher before becoming headteacher in September 1996.

Mrs Burton, who has been headteacher at Bel Royal School for 24 years, said: "I have had the great professional honour of working alongside colleague heads, teachers and support staff who have been totally committed to the task of working alongside children and in partnership with their parents. These relationships have been hugely supportive over my career.

"At Bel Royal, with the support of the dedicated staff I have worked alongside with, I have been passionate about developing an inclusive learning community where achievement is promoted for every child from their own starting point and recognising that every child is unique with their own bank of talents and approaches to learning, which teachers can foster to take their learning forward. Children respond to inspiration in order to aspire."

Mrs Burton, who says she has been lucky to have the support of her parents, as well as her husband, Gary and daughter Yveline during her career, says she hopes to use her retirement to undertake a garden design course and to learn Latin. She says that she is also looking forward to travelling and visiting friends and family in the UK and France.

Mrs Burton will also be replaced by a Leading Headteacher. John Baudains has been appointed to the role to form a partnership between La Moye School, his current school, and Bel Royal School.

The Minister for Education, Senator Tracey Vallois, said: "Mrs Dixon and Mrs Burton have dedicated their working lives to educate and care for children. Through their proven skills, expertise and determination they have achieved the most senior school role of headteacher. They have made a significant contribution to education in Jersey and the legacy of their successful leadership will last long in their schools and the memories of so many colleagues, children and their families. I would like to pass on my thanks and the thanks of all Islanders for their long serving dedication and wish them both all the best for their retirements."

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