A North-east primary head who has retired after 40 years at the same school has been hailed an “inspiration” to future generations of teachers.
Wilma Mutch was treated to a fabulous farewell concert laid on by pupils, staff and the wider community as she left New Deer School for the final time on Friday, July 5.
Pupils made their own tribute video and performed a range of songs, dances and sketches including their own take on Lewis Capaldi’s ‘Someone You Loved’ in which they told their beloved headteacher “we kinda liked you being here at New Deer”.
Staff described her as a person who went “above and beyond” the call of duty for both the school and community, but who was, above all, “a brilliant headteacher, boss and friend”.
Wilma joined the village’s then junior secondary school in 1979 and was commended over the years for her work with the infants.
Her use of imaginative ideas to make learning fun was widely-recognised and in 2005 she was given a special mention in an HMIe inspection report.
She was described during her farewell concert as a “role model” both for teachers in the school and throughout the area.
One member of staff said: “Wilma was instrumental in introducing learning through play in her early years at the school and over the years hundreds of people from New Deer and the surrounding community have enjoyed a very positive start to their education.”
Taking over the reins of the school in December 2011, Wilma has shown “constant dedication and commitment” to her role and made numerous positive changes to the school.
Among those improvements have been a major refurbishment of the library to create a love of books among the children, development of the accelerated reading programme, creation of a nurture room with kitchen for the children and, thanks to her love of the environment, the installation of an eco-garden for the students to enjoy.
As if that wasn’t enough, one member of staff joked, she even managed to “get rid of the infamous gaddy green walls in the hall”!
From a wider perspective, Wilma has worked hard to bring the community and the school together, hosting a range of well-supported activities in the village including ‘Maths in the Community’ activities, regular pupil trips to Culsh Care Home, support for New Deer Show and the encouraging of class topics on the village itself to showcase what it has to offer.
She also leaves the school on a high after a raft of high-profile awards and commendations in recent years.
In November 2017, New Deer was the top performing school in Scotland using the Accelerated Reader programme which encourages young children to read by use of a scoring system and online testing.
In December 2018, the school received a Pride of Buchan Award for outstanding achievement in accelerated reading and in February this year it received a very positive Education Scotland inspection being hailed ‘good’ and ‘very good’ in all areas.
In May, the school also gained Education Scotland’s Digital Schools Award – only the fifth school in Aberdeenshire to receive the accolade.
Last month it received the First Minister’s Reading Challenge after its 99 pupils read an outstanding 2,544 books over the course of the challenge.
Enjoying Wilma’s farewell concert was Aberdeenshire Council’s Education and Children’s Services director Laurence Findlay who said the authority was “hugely proud” of the calibre of the region’s teaching staff.
He said: “We’ve been running a campaign over the last few weeks called ‘Ilovemyschool’ trying to encourage people to thank a teacher that’s done a lot for them and it’s really been building up to the end of term to say farewell and thank-you to teachers and that’s really inspired us.
“Wilma was a great example of that. Forty years is a long career – forty years in the same school is something else.
“Forty years still being at the top of your game, still winning awards and still innovating the lives of young people – that’s just a real inspiration and something really special.
“As a directorate, we’re filled with pride and hopefully seeing and hearing Wilma’s story will inspire the next generation of teachers and headteachers.”
After the farewell performance, Wilma thanked not only those involved in her special day, but all those who had supported both her and the school during her 40-year career.
She said: “This truly is the best school – the staff, the pupils, the parents, the community – they’re just brilliant.
“The support I have had from so many people over so many years has just been fantastic.”
Reflecting on her focus on pupils’ reading, she said: “There’s a buzz about reading in the school and I think if you can get kids to read then you’re 90% there in all areas of education.
“Achievement is also very important and not just attainment, and making sure kids achieve in lots of different areas – whether it be in the eco-garden, the music, the sports – it’s all so important.”
Wilma now plans to enjoy a busy retirement with travelling, reading and spending time with her grandchild high on her list of priorities.