Heather Payne has been an influential and inspirational figure at Queen Elizabeth’s Grammar School in Horncastle for more years than she probably cares to remember.
It is 27 years since she first stepped through the doors as a teacher. And, for the last ten years, she has been the school’s head in ever-changing times when many people would tell you results have become the be-all and end-all of life.
Mrs Payne has always met those challenges head on and the fact QEGS consistently figures in the list of the county’s best schools is proof of her positive and often fiercely protective leadership.
But, as they say, all good things must come to an end.
At the end of this month, Mrs Payne will step through those reception doors for the last time – as head at any rate.
Not that her skills and experience will be lost to local education.
She is ready to tackle a different challenge, as chief executive of the new Horncastle Education Trust.
As she reflects on a series of ‘lasts’ at QEGS, Mrs Payne admits she will miss daily school life, warts and all.
For the interview, we’re sitting on a bench, just feet away from where excited students are opening their A-level results.
As ever , Mrs Payne is on hand to congratulate the successful students who can look forward to starting a new ‘chapter’.
She is also quick to throw an reassuring arm around students who tear-stained faces indicate they haven’t achieved the grades they’d hoped for.
It is, of course, the last time Mrs Payne will attend the A-level results.
She has already completed her last assembly, her last staff meeting, her last school leavers’ event and, happily, her last Ofsted inspection.
“I will miss everything about the school...the staff, the students and the parents.
“The school has been a massive part of my life, especially after 27 years,” she said.
“Hopefully, I’m leaving it in a healthy position.
“For me, a positive thing is that as CEO of the Horncastle Academy I will still be involved in local education.
“It is a new challenge– one I’m really looking forward to.
“And while, I will miss teaching, this (the Academy) Trust) is a very positive development for this area.
“It’s something I was involved in from the start so to be able to continue that is very exciting and very important to me.”
Mrs Payne briefly breaks off to shake the hands of a parent whose daughter has joined the long list of QEGS success stories. Minutes earlier, though, and she had guided another student into a quiet office, no doubt telling her that there is still a positive life to be enjoyed beyond the four walls of the town’s grammar school.
lQEGS have has confirmed Simon Furness will take over from Mrs Payne. He has been deputy head for almost nine years.