Long-serving head waves goodbye

July 27 2018
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Sandie Smith kept school's Good Ofsted rating while leading it through a major expansion

THE HEAD teacher of a South Bristol primary school retired at the end of the summer term after a teaching career lasting 48 years.

Sandie Smith, who has led Southville primary school since 2004, was feted with a picnic for pupils on families on July 23, the last day of term. The school presented Sandie with what she described as the biggest challenge of her career when in 2015 she managed a major expansion, opening a new site for the school’s Key Stage 2 children at Myrtle Street, just off North Street. The new purpose-built building allowed the school to grow from one form in the reception year to three forms, opening it up to a wider BS3 catchment area.

Throughout the difficult move onto to sites – the bulk of the school is still at Merrywood Road – she kept the school’s Ofsted rating of good. She also hung on to her child-centred approach, emphasising enjoyment in learning.

Sandie said: “Southville primary has been an exciting school to work in and is based in a community that is never still, always buzzing with energy, ideas and increasing in diversity.

Sandie, who has spent most of her career teaching in Bristol, inspired her eldest son, Adam, to become headteacher at Wansdyke primary in Whitchurch. Her second son, Ollie, was disabled and sadly passed away at the age of 11, giving Sandie a particular interest in children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND). She said: “I really believe that this area is grossly underfunded. I’ve always had a connection with children with SEND and we’ve had many families come through our doors. When we get a breakthrough, it’s really rewarding.

“It’s not just about seeing them through school, but seeing them move on and growing into independent children. That was the magic thing for me with the children; it was seeing them do well.”

Over the last 14 years, Sandie has forged lasting relationships between Southville Primary and local events such as the Southbank Arts Trail and Bedminster Lantern Parade. She is proud to have maintained a full school programme that includes trips, museum visits, forest school education, cycling proficiency and international food week, in spite of constantly changing expectations from Ofsted to ‘get results’ with ever smaller budgets. The school said Sandie has been “a much-loved head teacher of Southville primary school and will be missed as she embarks on her well-deserved retirement”.

Aged 69, she is looking forward to travelling, playing tennis, taking clarinet lessons, spending time with her family, especially her grandchildren, and perhaps turning her had to writing. She said: “It has always been a demanding job, but I have found it incredibly rewarding, motivating and sometimes hilariously funny to the extent that I have threatened to write a play when I retire!” Sandie Smith originally thought about a career in science, however while completing community service as part of the Queen’s Guide Award in a Sunday School decided to teach.  


Mrs Smith has worked in Bristol schools since she qualified as a teacher from The City of Portsmouth College of Education in 1967.
 Following teaching posts in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, Sandie completed a degree in education at the University of the West of England and National Professional Qualification for Headship (NPQH).


Sandie has devoted her career to education within Bristol since 1970, where she taught at St Annes Junior School and Whitehall Primary before spending nine years as a supply teacher while her sons, Adam and Ollie, were young. 
 In 1986, Sandie was appointed to a teaching position at Gay Elms Primary School and went on to became Deputy Head.
 She was appointed Head Teacher of Southville Primary School in 2004. 


Sandie has been at the helm of Southville primary school for 14 years. As she embarks on her retirement, she looks forward to travel, tennis, taking clarinet lessons, and spending time with her family, especially her grandchildren.