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Hillesley Church of England Primary School bade a very fond farewell this month to Reverend Canon David Russell as he prepares to retire from The United Benefice of Wickwar with Rangeworthy, Hillesley, Charfield and Kingswood this autumn. He has been a governor at Hillesley Primary School for 23 years and staff and children wanted to acknowledge his considerable support and service to the school.

Reverend Russell was appointed Rector of two parishes, Rangeworthy and Wickwar, in 1998, with the proviso that he might take on further parishes. In 2000, the Benefice expanded to include Hillesley, Charfield and Kingswood. He was therefore appointed ex officio foundation governor of Hillesley Church of England Voluntary Aided Primary school under the headship of Mrs Barbara Newman and the chair of governors Mrs Heather Cooke.

When asked what the highlight of his time as governor at the school has been, he explained that he was part of the governing body that enabled the purchase of the Old Chapel Hall, formerly Hillesley Baptist chapel, which has extended the premises of the school giving room for larger collective worship, and seasonal productions.

Reverend Russell remarked, “The restored chapel was opened by the Bishop of Gloucester, Rt Revd Michael Perham, who I remember leading down the road in the rain!”

Reflecting on his time as a Governor of the school, Reverend Russell commented, “I have always found Hillesley School to be a cheerful, forward-looking school, very much at home in its community and founded in the values and ethos it inherits as a church school. Leading collective worship in a small school is a privileged experience, as the participation and reaction of the children is tangible, immediate and vibrant. I hope that adds value to their experience as well. Pupil voice exercises seem to betray that it does. It has been a pleasure to work with some very skilled and able people, both on the staff and in the governing body, over the years, and be a part of the responsibility of appointing new teachers and headteachers. My time here leaves me with nothing but admiration for those who work in education!’

Reverend Russell added, “I have enjoyed the school using St Giles church for worship, often to begin and end a term, and for festive occasions during the year, but perhaps, most notably, for their leaver’s service where each leaver gets a chance to speak from the pulpit about their school experience.”

In preparation for Reverend Russells leaving event, Headteacher, Mrs Chandler, explained that the children had been designing and making homemade burgers in design and technology lessons and they were excited for him to try out their creations! The school community was also pleased to welcome Pastor David Crunkhorn from SACRE (Standard Advisory Council on Religious Education) who presented the school with the prestigious REAction Award for its achievement in teaching Religious Education.

On behalf of the school Mrs Chandler commented, “The children and staff will miss Reverend Russell greatly. His worships are always interactive and thought-provoking, and he usually plays his guitar which inspires and energises the children! We are so grateful to have benefitted from his kindness and wisdom over the years, and we wish him a long and happy retirement!”