Islington school duo to retire together after more than 40 years

Highbury Fields School staff Kay Wall and Ann Francoise. 

Left to right: Kay Wall and Ann Francoise. - Credit: Maggie Wall

Two daytime supervisors at an Islington school are retiring after more than four decades. 

Kay Wall, 80, has worked as a senior midday supervisor at Highbury Fields School for 45 years, and Ann Francoise, 78, has been a lunchtime monitor for 43.

The pair have developed a strong bond and are pleased to be retiring together in the last week of term before Christmas.

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Ann said Kay had been thinking about retirement for a while: “But when I told the school I wanted to leave, Kay decided to do the same, so we’d both go out together.”

Over the last few months, life at the school has changed. Both women have had to make sure the children remain socially distanced and stay within their bubbles.

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“It has been strange seeing them all wearing a mask and keeping distanced,” Kay said. “It’s obviously not something I’ve ever had to do before.”

Before working at Highbury Fields School, Kay was employed at Shelburne High School, which is coincidentally where Ann studied as a teenager.

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After leaving school and having two children, Ann took up a six-month contract with Highbury Fields: “I just wanted a bit of holiday money, and I ended up staying for 43 years! Everyone at the school was so lovely, it would have been a shame to leave.”

The two have seen staff and students come and go. Kay said seven different headteachers have worked at Highbury Fields during her tenure, and Ann recalled that “we’d sometimes get girls come up to us and ask if we remembered their mums from when they went to school here”.

“It’s nice to see them grow up,” Kay added.

Both women are sad to leave Highbury Fields, which Kay says has been like a family to them: “We see the staff there more than we see our own families. I get along with them and we all go back a long way.”

Kay and Ann both plan to spend retirement going on lots of walks, where they are sure they will bump into old friends from the school.

Ann encouraged people at Highbury Fields to “give me a wave if I’m walking past,” while Kay said: “I’ll miss you all, but it’s finally time to go. I’m 80 for goodness sake!”

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