Bolton School headteacher to retire after 38 glorious years in teaching
Gill Richards had big plans for Bolton School when she took over as head. Having achieved them all she's retiring after 38 years in teaching. Amanda Griffiths meets her Photography by Kirsty Thompson
In her 38 years of teaching Gill Richards has influenced the lives of thousands of school children. In fact, only recently she met a past pupil at a meeting about the new Bolton School Sixth Form Centre.
‘It must be 30 years ago that I taught him,’ says Gill, headmistress of Bolton School Girls’ Division. ‘I recognised him and he recognised me. He always wanted to be an architect and now he’s achieved that dream.’
It’s surprising to learn that this inspirational lady with a keen interest in people and their lives never actually wanted to be a teacher.
‘I was at school at a similar set up to this in Loughborough. I was told there that I should be a teacher because I was bossy!
‘I never wanted to be a teacher then I met my husband and for awhile it looked like he was going to be working abroad.
‘I ended up doing my PGCE at Reading because it was near to Heathrow which meant I would be able to fly out to see him easily and I thought if we did end up settling abroad I could always teach.
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‘I thought I wanted to teach primary children, but only lasted two weeks. They were just too unpredictable for me. I moved into secondary and have never looked back.
‘The first 24 years I worked in big urban comprehensives. I’ve been a head for 14 years, and spent the last six years here in Bolton.
‘I wasn’t actually looking for another headship and then, at an appraisal, was told I should think about taking another one on. I discussed it with my husband and he asked if I could go to any school which it would be.
‘The only one I wanted to go to was Bolton School. I know I’m biased as head but I’ve always thought it a great school and something of a hidden gem, but I never thought the job would come up.
‘Then my predecessor retired early and I just felt it was fate! People often ask what someone’s proudest moment is; the answer often being giving birth to their children, but for me it was walking into assembly in the Great Hall on my first day and the whole school was there. I was so thrilled, so proud to be there as head of this school - then the enormity of the responsibility hit me!’
In the six years Gill has been at the helm of Bolton School Girls’ Division, exam results have been superb and she’s seen a number of projects through to completion, including the new infant school which opened on time and, more importantly for those in charge, on budget. The new junior school will have its official opening (again on time and on budget) this summer.
She leaves this summer, handing plans for the new Sixth Form Centre to the new head, Miss Susan Hicks, and feels strongly that her successor will be able to lead the school and the girls to even more success.
‘The one thing that doesn’t change here seems to be the ethos of the school,’ she says. ‘We have a thriving Old Boys and Old Girls section and they always say the same thing - no matter how the physical building has changed, the ethos doesn’t.
‘The staff work hard and so do the girls. They really want to learn. And of course we have the best of both worlds with girls and boys being on the same site but taught separately.
‘I won’t miss the admin and the meetings or writing papers but I will miss the people and seeing the girls achieve their goals and become articulate, confident, but not arrogant, young ladies.
‘When I got the job here I came up with a list of things I wanted to do, things that I thought needed changing. In my first year I just watched and listened then in the second year started on that list which included improving our ICT facilities and was able to make changes to the curriculum when the new Boys’ Head came into position.
‘I have now ticked all those things off the list. I do have another one butI started thinking it was time to hand the school over to the next head to make those changes.
‘My husband is already retired and I’d like to spend more time with him. Our family home is in North Wales and for the last six years I’ve been living in Bolton during the week. My daughter is married and living in America and my son is a surveyor near to us in North Wales.
‘I always bang on in assemblies about seizing the day and making the most of your opportunities and that’s just what I intend to do. I intend to travel a lot, Antarctica, New Zealand and spending more time in America. I might even do a doctorate to keep my mind busy!’