An "inspirational" headteacher in Laverstock who is believed to be the longest serving head in Wiltshire has retired. 

Karen Walker started as deputy head at St Andrew’s Primary CE VA Primary School in January 1988 before taking on the role of head in 1998. She started her teaching career in Nottinghamshire in 1981 before later teaching at Harnham juniors in 1984.

She says it has been a “huge” part of her life and describes the school as being like her “fourth child”.

When Mrs Walker started at the school there were only three classes with 70 children. Since then there have been new buildings and pupil numbers have grown to 208.

After years of watching pupils at the school “fledge” and go on to the next stages of their educational journey Mrs Walker felt it was time to leave and spend more time with her own family, including her grandchildren and jokes that her husband Mark say’s she’s only got 10 years left in her knees and needs to be able to keep up if they go travelling.

Recalling when she first started at the school Mrs Walker says another headteacher told her to “put St Andrew’s on the map” and adds: “I feel it is on the map now and it is highly respected and regarded.”

On what she has enjoyed most about her time as headteacher she says it’s been the children, music and singing.

“To me primary school should be about giving them lots and lots of wonderful experiences. Not just the academic – it is about providing them with as many experiences as possible so they grow and develop to be a complete all-rounder and love learning.”

Mrs Walker, who is in her 25th year as headteacher, is believed to be the longest serving head in Wiltshire. Her love of teaching was sparked from an early age and as a child she would play teacher with her own desk and register.

“To do this job for 25 years is an achievement but it is that old cliché if you love your job you don’t do a day’s work in your life.”

Although, she admits she would "love to carry on" said: "It is time and I recognise it is time for somebody else to pick up the reigns."

Her efforts over the years have also benefitted pupils across Salisbury, with organising the mini marathon which involves a number of schools in the area and, with her husband Mark, arranging the Christmas carols for schools in the city.

In a message to pupils, staff and families, she said: "Just a big thank you. They have made it. I do believe for a school to be good it has to have a good leader but you can't be a good leader if you don't have a good team behind you. We all do it together."

Liz Bunting, who has worked as a teaching assistant and is a governor at the school, said it has been "absolutely fantastic" working with Mrs Walker and praised her for "being able to bring out the best of people". 

Chair of governors, Pam Bassindale says she will be "hugely missed" by everyone at the school and "will leave a gap in everyone's lives" and praised the role she has played mentoring and supporting other local head teachers in the area. 

Deputy head Amanda Hodgson added: "She's a truly inspirational leader and someone we all the staff look up to. Everything she does she makes all her decisions with love in her heart and always does what is best for the children, the community, parents, for the school. She is phenomenal."

"She's always had a drive for this place to be the very best that it can for these children and that they all get an amazing offer," added Miss Hodgson, who says Mrs Walker will leave behind a legacy of "love and kindness" as well as music. "We are going to miss her so much."