KEVIN Barry was in reflective mood as he watched nervous pupils collect their GCSE results last week.
For the first time in 38 years, the popular teacher won’t be back when a new term starts at Cheadle’s Painsley Catholic College next Tuesday.
He remained typically enthusiastic as he celebrated with students and their families on his final-ever results day.
But the 60-year-old was happy to discuss a professional career that started in 1979 and ends with his retirement, from the same school, tomorrow.
“I’ve had a fantastic opportunity here and enjoyed some wonderful times over the years,” he said.
“It’s a great school that has been brilliantly led and I’m sure I’ll miss it and the kids, of course, very much.
“But it’s time to move on, have a rest and start a new chapter in my life – and I’m very much looking forward to it.”
Kevin, who lives in Uttoxeter, was born in Dublin and educated in North London.
But he went to university here in Staffordshire, which is how his love affair with this part of the world started.
He first joined Painsley to teach German but it wasn’t long before he was made senior teacher and he has been deputy head – a position now known a senior vice principal – for 18 years.
“I never dreamed when I first arrived at Painsley that I’d be staying here so long, but I’ve never felt the desire to go anywhere else,” he said.
“Life here has been very stable and, in 38 years, I’ve worked under only three head teachers – Peter Chandler, Francis Tunney and now Stephen Bell.
“It’s been a dream job for me in many ways and I’ll take many fabulous memories that will live with me forever.”
While Kevin will be known by literally thousands of pupils who’ve passed through Painsley over nearly four decades, he’s perhaps even more well known in local sporting circles.
His long career in football took him from Newcastle Town and Cheadle United to Rocester, where he played a starring role in a fabulous team put together by then manager Alan Beaman.
Kevin featured alongside former Stoke City defender Alan Dodd and others such as Nigel Mottram, Alan Somerville and Mick Collins in an 80s side which would often attract crowds of more than 500.
His exploits earned him legendary status at Bramshall Cricket Club too, where he topped the league bowling averages three times.
And while his retirement from school life will give him more time at home, Kevin’s not yet ready to call it quits on his love of sport.
“I’m going to take up golf and see where that takes me,” said Kevin, who lost wife Angela – a former international runner – to cancer two years ago.
“There are a few things I want to do actually. It’ll be nice to have the chance to do some reading and I’ve always wanted to learn Spanish.
“I can speak French and German, so it would be good to have the set.”
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