A HUSBAND and wife headteacher and deputy have said a fond farewell to staff and students after nearly 80 years of combined service to education.

Mike Lambert, headteacher at The Wordsley School, and his wife Maggie, assistant head at the school in Brierley Hill Road, said socially distant goodbyes to colleagues today (Friday July 17) after waving off pupils that had returned to the classroom amid the coronavirus pandemic the day before.

Mr Lambert, who has been at the helm of the school for nearly 20 years since 2001, said he had "mixed emotions" about leaving but he added: "I''ll miss the children and the staff, they're amazing."

He said the time was right to move on as a £7million school expansion programme, to build a new English block and science labs plus new sports area, gathers pace but he admitted to “crying for three weeks” after breaking the news that he was ready to retire.

The 61-year-old, who moved to the Black Country from his native Leeds to train at Dudley Teacher Training College, started his education career as a geography teacher in Wolverhampton.

He later worked with children with special needs in Sandwell and Wolverhampton, then became deputy head at Cradley High School for five years before being appointed headteacher at The Wordsley School.

He said when he first started at the school, formerly known as Buckpool, it was bottom of the league tables in Dudley and had “more empty spaces than any other school” and he added: “It was about building confidence in the school.

“I used to get people in my office crying because they had to come to Buckpool – now we have them crying because they can’t get a place.

"The local community didn’t have the confidence to send their children to our school so they went off elsewhere. We were always seen as the poor cousins but now we’re the school that people come to."

He said for the last 14 to 15 years the school, which can accommodate just over 600 pupils, has been over subscribed but when the government funded multi-million expansion programme is complete by September 2021 the school's capacity will be around 1,100.

He said: "It's going to be a massive expansion. It’s incredible watching it go up. It’s a wonderful opportunity for the new headteacher to launch this new building and really take the school forward."

After around 40 years in education - Mr Lambert said he has loved serving the community of Wordsley at one of the last remaining local authority controlled schools in the borough.

He said: "It's been great. We've stuck to our guns and principles - and parents can feel the warmth and sense of joy with what we try to do in school.

"We haven’t allowed our curriculum to be determined by league tables – we do what is best for children."

He said it has been "fantastic" working alongside his wife Maggie, a former long-serving Pensnett High School English teacher who has been assistant head at The Wordsley School for 12 years.

"I have been the boss at school and Maggie is the boss at home," he said - although he admitted to feeling a little nervous that from now on "she's going to be the boss all the time".

When asked what he plans to do with his retirement - Mr Lambert, a keen a Leeds United fan, said: "Hopefully I can get up to Leeds and watch a few more of their games and ultimately spend more time in France where we can just relax. All the jobs I was going to do, like re-roofing the shed, I’ve done over the last few weeks."

He said it had been "so sad" to leave without the opportunity to say a proper goodbye to many of the pupils - as only a fraction of children have returned to the classroom since the coronavirus lockdown.

But he was able to say a socially distant farewell to many of the staff and he hopes to see them all again for a celebration when the school building works are complete.

Mr and Mrs Lambert were presented with an array of gifts including a memory photo album, flowers, cake and a voucher for a stay at their favourite hotel on their last day and Jackie Priest, the school's finance manager, said: "They will be sorely missed."

Gareth Burton, the former headteacher of Cheltenham Bournside School, is set to take over from Mr Lambert in September.