TWELVE years on and the time has come for Gillian James to face her very own ‘Grand Depart’ as she retires as headteacher of Ilkley Grammar School.

In 2002 as Gillian joined IGS, the school was wrestling with reorganisation, Post-16 curriculum, Teacher Performance Management, and a budget that had turned out ‘not to be quite the bundle of joy for which they hoped’, as the governors reported, as there was in fact a £300k budget deficit.

The main tests of the first year were the reorganisation onto one site following the move from an upper school to 11-18, and opening the new building in 2003.

By early 2004, Specialist School bidding had begun in earnest and it took two attempts to secure. The year 2007 heralded the school’s 400th anniversary and a visit from HRH Princess Anne, an anniversary ball at The Craiglands, a Thanksgiving Service at St Margaret’s, and a joint Ilkley Playhouse – IGS production of ‘Twelfth Night,’ and later a book: ‘Olicana’s Children’.

During Gillian’s time as the head of IGS she has hosted many visitors and also visited many places, including China in 2008, and 2011 saw the launch of the Red Kite Teaching School Alliance, Bradford Partnership and Academy conversion.

Gillian said: "In my time at the helm, we have raised the profile of learning and teaching, introduced iPads, hugely improved parent satisfaction, had two very positive Ofsted inspections (Good with outstanding features in 2007; Good with outstanding Achievement in 2011), two Ofsted subject inspections (a Good English and an Outstanding Maths), promoted student leadership, launched Learning Communities, engaged in the Bradford Partnership, been a key player in the Red Kite Alliance, achieved Academy status (July 2011) and seen press coverage rise from 90 in 2011-12 to 200+ in 2013-14.

Results have also been consistently very good. The Building Schools for the future may not have delivered a new IGS, but schools are always more about the people in them and I have been so fortunate to have worked with so many outstanding students and staff.

"Headship is a stressful challenge but also a huge joy. It is a privilege to have been trusted to lead IGS for the last 12 years, in times of turbulence and of calm. I want to thank all parents as well as the local community for all their support and encouragement; I have very much welcomed your confidence in me, particularly in more challenging times.

"The future is always uncertain, but this school is an impressive place to be, with a proud record and a confident future. I wish the new Headteacher, Helen, and everyone else, if not plain, then very happy, sailing.

"IGS is a big ship, but it has QE2 ambitions and deserves the very best!"