A PRINCIPAL is celebrating after clocking up 25 years working at her Colchester school.

Hilary Vipond has been at St Mary's School since January 1996.

She was initially head of personal, social, health and education (PSHE) before becoming vice-principal and then going on to secure the role of principal in September 2006.

She is only the seventh principal in St Mary’s 113-year history and was joined by students and staff to celebrate her quarter of a century at the Lexden Road school.

Mrs Vipond said: “I'm delighted to be celebrating many enjoyable years at St Mary’s.

"I joined when I was new to the area, having moved from a school in London.

"I was returning after maternity leave and had no idea I would end up staying so long.

“I'm incredibly proud that the school has never lost sight of the core values of providing an outstanding education for young women, as well as the life skills that we teach and, in turn, the fun the girls have.

"This is what makes our school so special.

"A plaque on a bench recently donated in memory of a former student encapsulates that feeling.

"The words ‘we didn’t realise we were making memories, we just thought we were having fun’ rings very true for me, because I really want the girls to have valued their education and remember it with fondness.”

During her quarter of a century at the school, GCSE results have been consistently high and, in November last year, the Lower School was ranked 12th-highest performing prep school in England by the Sunday Times Parent Power listing.

Mrs Vipond has spearheaded many nationally recognised accolades for St Mary’s, such as becoming an Eco School, International School and receiving National Wellbeing and Healthy Schools status.

St Mary’s has also become a member of an international network of schools called Round Square.

Chair of Governors Adam Hildred said: “We're really grateful for all the hard work and direction Hilary has given over her time at St Mary’s and acknowledge that she has done an excellent job in her time here.”