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Sue Canning: Teacher retires after 45 years at same West Hampstead school

Sue Canning had taught some of her staff room colleagues when they were children

18 July, 2019 — By Helen Chapman

TEARS were shed at a primary school in West Hampstead after its longest-serving staff member said farewell.

Sue Canning joined Beckford Primary as a teacher in 1974 and after a lifetime’s service is now retiring.

She said: “I have taught some of the staff here when they were young and the parents of some of the children I teach now.”

The school held a leaving party for Ms Canning, 65, on Tuesday.

Parents, children and ex-pupils gathered to say goodbye.

Ms Canning, who began working at the school under Beryl Gilroy, the first black headteacher in London, said: “It’s been wonderful, like a family. I was only 21 when I started. I just love my job and my vocation. It’s changed as a school over time but its heartbeat is still the same. It is an amazing school.”

Sam Drake is new to the post as headteacher at Beckford Primary.

He said: “I am devastated. I have only been here for two weeks. It will be difficult to fill her shoes but she’s done her shift now. She has had an immeasurable impact on the school.”

It comes after 40 schools, including Beckford, signed a letter to parents warning of the school funding squeeze.

Sue Canning with pupils and, below, staff at Beckford

Schools say they cannot afford to replace teachers who leave. Mr Drake added: “We will have to reshuffle around the school and move teachers around here. Someone is being promoted up to her position. There will be no measurable impact on the children. There is a wealth of experience in the school and her legacy will continue.”

Bernadette Quirke works at Beckford as a reception teacher and was taught by Ms Canning in her first classroom in 1974. She said: “She hasn’t changed a bit since then. She still has her flowery dresses and is still lovely.”

Steven Blantz, 49, was also taught by Ms Canning in 1974 and visited the school to say goodbye on Tuesday. He said: “You never forget the first impression your first teacher has on you. Everybody remembers Sue.”

Maxine Lee, who taught the reception class alongside Ms Canning, said: “It’s been an amazing experience working with Ms Canning. She has a wealth of knowledge and will be sorely missed.”

Pupil Maria-Sol Petrova, eight, said: “She is a kind woman, not one of the strict ones. She’s only strict when she needs to be.”

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