She has been the mainstay of St Michael’s Primary School for the last 40 years, but now Olivia Blake has rung the bell on her time there.
Her retirement was marked last Thursday in an end of term celebration involving pupils during a special school assembly, in which they sang two songs and presented her with cards that every class had made.
This was followed later in the day with an afternoon tea party involving past and present staff members.
One of the biggest gifts, however, was the naming of the newly refurbished school library in her honour: The Olivia Blake Library.
She will now fund an annual reading award at the school, which will see one pupil each year win a trophy and book token.
Olivia has been the first person that thousands of pupils and visitors have met as they entered the school over the last four decades.
She joined the school when her son was aged six and a pupil there. She has worked for five headteachers during her tenure, starting with the late Glyn Hughes, then Joan Collinge who oversaw the amalgamation of the infant and junior departments, followed by John Owen, Christine Macfarlane and most recently Shaun Perfect.
Two of them – Mrs Collinge and Mr Owen – returned to join Mr Perfect in celebrating Olivia’s work for the school and thanking her personally.
Mr Owen, who worked with Olivia for 17 years, described her as “unique”, praising her for the way she could remember details about all past and present pupils, staff and parents.
“She has invaluable knowledge of people. She is always making sure everybody is alright and is a ‘calendar’ for everybody.
“I value her friendship, her loyalty and the support that she’s given me. I just hope that you don’t forget us and keep in touch in your retirement,” he added.
Following speeches at her tea party, Olivia was whisked into a gold-covered “throne” and told to put her feet up, as staff launched into a rendition of Gloria Gaynor’s ‘I Will Survive’, with the lyrics changed to reflect her impact on the school – including concerns over how the staff biscuit tin would now be filled.
She was also presented with a monetary gift, a flower arrangement and a large retirement cake, which took pride of place in the centre of a large cake buffet.
Olivia said: “It’s just amazing. It’s gone so quickly. A big thank you to everyone; we have been a family. It’s just been wonderful.”
Mr Perfect said that although he had only worked with Olivia for just over two years, her support and encouragement had been “greatly valued.”
He added: “Her knowledge about our families has really helped me to do my job effectively. We will miss her – she is the face of St Michael’s.”