Pupils wave off Mrs O'Higgins at touching garden party tribute
PUBLISHED: 09:50 11 July 2018 | UPDATED: 09:50 11 July 2018
More than 200 parents and children gathered at a huge summer garden party on Saturday to see off beloved headteacher Teresa O'Higgins, who is retiring from the Convent of Jesus and Mary Infant School after 16 years at the helm.
“I was aware the PTA was organising a summer fair but I wasn’t prepared for what ensued,” Mrs O’Higgins told the Brent & Kilburn Times this week.
“I was crowned with a garland of roses so I was queen for the day.
“I was so completely overwhelmed by the warm wishes and gifts.”
Mrs O’Higgins took over from the nuns as the first lay head in 2002.
With a passion for gardening and the great outdoors, she has ensured pupils have as much outdoor learning as possible within school hours.
Bearing that in mind, pupils and parents organised a party with a gardening theme, with stalls, a selfie bench with a garden backdrop, and a bustling summer fair.
There was also a gift-giving ceremony, during which she received a Ginkgo biloba tree, which will be planted in the school garden to celebrate her tenure.
Mrs O’Higgins also received her favourite plant to take home – a David Austin climbing rose.
“It was very moving when I saw how many parents turned out,” said Mrs O’Higgins, whose leadership saw the school given an outstanding rating by Ofsted in 2010.
“We have wonderful parents and families here.
“But I’ve been doing this for 16 years and the time has come to pass on the baton.”
Parent Andrew Daniels told the Times: “Mrs O’Higgins’ drive and passion are palpable forces and we will do our very best to keep that legacy of excellence alive.”
Ian Williamson, co-chair of the parents and teachers’ association, said: “Mrs O’Higgins has been an inspiration to work with alongside the PTA.
“She will be greatly missed and we wish her all the very best for her well-deserved retirement.”
To help her see in her retirement in style, parents chipped in for a national art pass and an afternoon tea for two at Claridge’s.
Parents said it has been important for them that Mrs O’Higgins created a nurturing environment for their children, making the school feel more like a family.
“It is rewarding seeing the different we make to the children, we’re the first rung on their educational pathway, we’re right there at the start,” she said.
Gabriella Lewis, parent of five-year-old Victoria, told the Times: “For the past two years my child has been at the Convent of Jesus and Mary and we love how Mrs O’Higgins, on top of everything else, fosters an enjoyment of poetry and music in the children.”
Students and parents wrote down their most precious memories of their time with Mrs O’Higgins and dropped them in a jar for her to have as a keepsake.
While head, Mrs O’Higgins oversaw the substantial renovations of the school building, making it one of the most sought-after infant schools in Willesden.
Parent Karen Morrissey added: “Mrs O’Higgins has been a wonderful headteacher over the years. Her hard work and dedication mean so much to me and my family.
“She is such an inspiration to us all. I am very fortunate to have had both my daughters Toni-Ann and Miah-Hope attend the school during her time here. She will be missed always.”
Mayor of Brent Cllr Arshad Mahmood attended the goodbye ceremony.
He said on the day: “I am thrilled and honoured to be here today to not only celebrate the school’s annual summer fair but to wish Mrs O’Higgins a fantastic retirement and to thank her on behalf of the children, parents, teachers and governors past and present for her 16 years of unfaltering service in education and for the guidance she has provided for the families of Brent.
“I can say on behalf of all your pupils and parents and those who have worked with you over the years that you will be sorely missed at the school.
“We all wish you a relaxing and wonderful retirement that you unquestionably deserve. Thank you.”
But tireless Mrs O’Higgins is already planning her next adventure. “I love working with children so my ambition is to work with some of the Catholic children’s charities in the area,” she said. “I won’t be putting up my feet up just yet!”