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Retiring teacher has given 37 years’ service to Westray school and community

Retiring teacher has given 37 years’ service to Westray school and community
30 June 2021

Helen LumsdenA popular teacher heard the school bell ring for the last time at the end of term after an amazing 37 years at Westray Junior High School.

Originally from Lossiemouth, when Helen Lumsden first moved to the island in August 1984, aged 23, she had only envisaged staying for the required probationary period – however she fell in love with the community and never left!

Helen, who has retired from her post as Principal Teacher in the Primary department, says it has been a “privilege” to have taught so many of the bairns on Westray – being well into her second generation of families!

“I arrived in Westray to take up the job of class teacher in Primary 6 and 7 at what was then Pierowall Junior High School. At that time teachers had to serve a 2-year probation period, and I initially thought I would probably look for a job south at the end of that time. However, I quickly realised what a special place Westray is and I am now retiring from the job, 37 years later! During that time, I have been a class teacher, Senior Teacher and latterly Principal Teacher for the Primary, as well as continuing to teach the children in the Upper Primary.

“When I arrived at the school in 1984 there were four Primary teachers and over 100 children in the Primary. Over the years the roll dropped so that there were only two teachers in the Primary for a number of years, but encouragingly, the current Primary roll is now 50, and we have three Primary teachers.

“When I first arrived at the school many of the Secondary children left for Kirkwall Grammar School at the end of S2 but for a considerable number of years the majority have stayed to the end of S4, and been able to sit National Qualifications before leaving for the Grammar School, or going on to further education or employment. This has had a hugely positive impact on both the school and the wider community.”

Helen says there have been many changes over the years.

“One of the main highlights has been the completion of the swimming pool. Prior to there being a pool in Westray, myself and a teaching colleague used to take the older Primary children to Kirkwall for what we called ‘swimming weekends’. This enabled them to have lots of lessons packed into a short time. It was exhausting but the only way for them to learn to swim.

“It has been an enormous privilege to be part of the lives of so many families and I have really loved my job. There have been many laughs and much fun over the years, and it has been great to work in such a supportive school and community.”

Helen continued: “Obviously there are so many things I will miss, mainly the bairns, but it is time to move on to new challenges. I have no plans to leave my home in Westray and look forward to getting involved in community projects – but first I intend to have a massive clear out in the house!”

Chair of the Council’s Education, Leisure and Housing Committee, Councillor Gwenda Shearer, said: “Our islands are very special places to live and work and for our children to learn and be nurtured – as has been demonstrated by Helen’s dedicated service to the school and community of almost 40 years.

“I have no doubt she will be sorely missed by pupils and colleagues but we wish Helen a well-deserved long and happy retirement.”

Helen received a range of gifts from staff and parents, including a framed “Pirate Map” of Westray and Papay, with pirate picture self-portraits from all 93 of the current school children.

School Place, Kirkwall, Orkney, KW15 1NY

Telephone: 01856 873535

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Orkney Islands Council: BOREAS DOMUS MARE AMICUS