A highly respected headteacher at a top Peterborough school is stepping down after 20 years of service.
Gary Longman (59), headteacher of The King’s School, in Park Road, has announced he is retiring at the end of the current academic year.
The father-of-two said says he has made the decision in the face of two impending milestones - his 20th year at King’s and his 60th year on the planet.
He plans to spend more time pursuing his hobbies, including travelling and gardening, but admitted having “mixed feelings” about leaving.
He said: “I have got a significant birthday coming up this year, I have been here 20 years and I feel it’s time to hand over the reins to someone else.
“On the other side of the coin, I know I’m going to miss the school enormously.”
Mr Longman came to King’s as a deputy headteacher of six years at Heysham High School, in Morecambe.
A graduate from the University of Nottingham, where he studied botany, Mr Longman went straight into teaching at the end of his studies.
He had left school with a different ambition, however, initially studying dentistry.
He said after six months he realised he had “made the wrong choice” and began pursuing a career in education.
It was a path foreseen by his biology teacher when Mr Longman was about to leave school, he remembers.
He said: “She said ‘Longman - dentistry? I was certain you would become a teacher’.”
Mr Longman, at first a teacher of biology and science in general, described the attraction to teaching as a “gut feeling”, but added he enjoyed working with children and was also drawn by “the opportunity to share the love of your subject with youngsters”.
Mr Longman, who grew up in Hull, had never been to Peterborough before his interview for the post of headteacher at King’s.
He said he was struck by the description of the school in its advertisement of the vacancy.
He said: “I thought ‘what a wonderful school, what a wonderful opportunity’.”
He said he was attracted by the school’s tradition, values and ethos.
He said: “I thought I could be very happy there.”
Among the highlights during his 20 years at King’s, Mr Longman said was the relationship with pupils.
He said: “Just getting to know and working with literally thousands of students - probably about 4,000 students have been in the school or through the school in my 20 years - and being able to share their experiences with them on a daily basis.”
Another highlight was helping to revamp the school site.
He said: “We have been able to attract grants, particularly in the last 10 years, to completely rearrange and rebuild the school.
“That has been exciting - to get the facilities to benefit the youngsters.”
A third highlight was the opening of The King’s School’s junior department, which has given a space for Peterborough Cathedral to educate its choristers.
He said: “That had been a dream of mine almost from the day I came 20 years ago.”
The only low he mentioned, and it was done so fleetingly, was “grappling with bureaucracy”.
The relationship with pupils Mr Longman has as a headteacher returned in terms of what he would miss about the role.
He said: “I will miss the buzz of coming in and working with youngsters, chatting with youngsters on a daily basis - that’s going to leave a huge void in my life.
“We talk about The King’s School family and it does feel to me as a huge extended family and it’s great to be with the youngsters on a daily basis.”
In terms of changes over the past 20 years, he said he felt the pressure of teachers was now greater, but also the quality of teaching was improved.
As for advice for the city’s headteachers, he said: “Just enjoy life on a day-to-day basis. Follow your heart, follow what you passionately believe and don’t let bureaucracy grind you down.”
He finished with a thank you to pupils, parents, staff and governors.
He said: “They have given tremendous support to make me life a relatively easy one, but also a most enjoyable one.”
Widespread praise for retiring headteacher
Tributes have been paid to the retiring headteacher at King’s.
MP for Peterborough Stewart Jackson said: “Gary Longman has been a fantastic, inspirational leader at King’s and he has served with great diligence and shown real leadership over the last 20 years. He will leave an enormous gap and it will be an incredibly difficult job to fill the void, but he goes with our thanks and gratitude for all he has done.”
Cllr John Holdich, member of Peterborough City Council for education, skills and university, said: “There’s no doubt about it, he has made a tremendous difference to young people’s lives and his leadership has maintained The King’s School as one of the leading schools not only in the city, but in the country.”
Assistant director of education and resources at the council Jonathan Lewis paid tribute to Mr Longman’s role as chairman of the Peterborough Schools Forum, which helps distribute funding within the local authority’s schools. It is a role he will be stepping down from at the end of the calendar year.
He said: “He has been a fantastic servant for the city.”
He added: “He puts a lot of effort into the schools forum. He has done brilliantly to lead that role.”
The Venerable Christine Allsopp, chairman of the Peterborough Diocesan Board of Education, which supports church schools such as King’s, said: “Gary Longman has been an outstanding headteacher, steering The King’s School through the many changes in education over the last 20 years. His leadership has been the focal point of the distinctive Christian character of the school. We wish him a long and happy retirement.”
The Very Rev Charles Taylor, Dean of Peterborough, credited Mr Longman for ensuring there was space for the Cathedral choristers to be educated at King’s School after the opening of the Junior Department. He praised Mr Longman for developing the school academically and in terms of the opportunities it offers its youngsters.
He said: “Clearly he will be greatly missed.
“He has done a tremendous job building on the work of his predecessor.”