BACK in 1983, when Tony McAteer first started his career in teaching, little did he know that 34 years later he would be retiring from the profession at the same school site he started at.

The Holy Cross Primary School headteacher first got into education as the assistant caretaker of St Joseph’s Junior School in Queen’s Drive.

From being the school’s lollipop man to working as a handyman, Tony had a variety of jobs before he became more interested in pursuing a teaching career thanks to stern advice from his father-in-law, who was head at the junior school at the time.

The 56-year-old will bid a fond farewell to Holy Cross Primary when he retires next week.

“I have been lucky throughout my career because I have worked with fantastic colleagues who have become close personal friends,” he said. “Every school I have been at there is a great team and I think the community has been fantastic at supporting this school because they are very appreciative of what we are trying to do.

“Most importantly are the children. Our children are incredibly well-behaved and I rarely have someone come into my office for misbehaviour or any complaints.

“What is quite funny is that I have two teachers at the moment who I taught as pupils at Holy Rood and quite a few other former pupils that I taught at that school are now bringing their children here to Holy Cross.

“I think that says a lot about the school itself and it is the commitment and loyalty that people have to the school that they enjoyed their time so much themselves that they want to send their children here.”

Throughout his career, Tony has taught at a number of schools, including one in Croydon, before moving back to the town he now calls home in 1987.

He was a teacher at St Catherine’s before moving to Holy Rood Junior School – which is now where the Holy Cross Queen’s Drive site is located. He settled at Holy Cross in 2009 – a decision he’s never looked back on.

On retiring, Tony is hoping to visit his home country of Ireland to explore some of his family’s history but first has big plans for trips across the globe including Eastern Europe. In between all of that travelling, Tony, who lives in Stratton, is also hoping to brush up his skills on the golf course.

“I am proud of a lot of things during my time at Holy Cross,” he said. “The major challenge we have had is establishing the new school on this site but we have fantastic staff who have helped parents and children adapt to the changes.

“I would have never have thought back in 1983 that I would end up here. It is nice to think that I have chosen to end my teaching career exactly where I started it, but in a completely different capacity.”