It’s all hugs as ‘sad’ pupils bid farewell to head

Friday, 22nd July — By Charlotte Chambers

Juliet Benis IMG_6814

Headteacher Juliet Benis with some of her charges at yesterday’s party

DEVASTATED children – albeit momentarily distracted by the promise of cakes, biscuits and drinks – gave their headteacher a big hug on her final day at their school.

Juliet Benis has been head at Outstanding-rated Ambler Primary School in Blackstock Road for 15 years, but joined the school as a trainee teacher nearly three decades ago. Her last day at the school in Finsbury Park was yesterday (Thursday) but she has been marking her departure with a range of different events held in her honour to say thanks for the memories.

Ms Benis said a highlight had been parents serenading her in the playground in front of a “thank you Juliet” banner, while Islington North MP Jeremy Corbyn also came to give a speech recognising her long service.

And last month she was given an outstanding achievement award by Dr Who actor Christopher Eccleston at the Islington education awards.

But last Friday it was the turn of the children to say their own goodbyes with a party in the playground.
Describing how they felt about Ms Benis leaving, children from Year 3’s green class said “sad,” “sorrowful” and “depressed”.

Sofia, eight, said: “I’m sad she’s leaving. She’s been in our school for 28 years and I’ve got really used to her. I am going to spend as much time with her whenever I see her. I really like her, she’s a really kind headteacher and she’s made the school the best school in the world.”

More than half of children taking this year’s SATs got greater depth in maths, English and reading and 95 per cent
got expected in those subjects – the national average is 65 per cent. But Ms Benis insisted a happy school is about much more than pleasing Ofsted and smashing SATS scores.

She said: “It’s a funny thing. I’ve spent my whole career thinking that Ofsted was the only person [sic] that appreciates that I’ve worked hard and made a change – and actually the whole last few weeks [I have] felt really like, just totally appreciated.”

Ms Benis has booked a road trip and will be flying to San Francisco on what will be the first day of school in September. This, she hopes, will take the edge off not returning to Ambler, and she plans to drive down the West Coast of America in a convertible with a friend.

Islington’s schoolchildren have not seen the last of her, however. She plans to take up a role advising schools on teaching and learning and supporting leaders within schools’ senior leadership teams.

Sandy McNicholl, who has been deputy head for four years, will take over the leadership role in September.

Related Articles