THE head teacher who oversaw the rebuilding of a York primary school following a devastating fire in the 1990s is retiring after 21 years at the helm.

Andrew Calverley, the head at Park Grove since September 1991, is retiring at Easter aged 60 after teaching generations of youngsters in The Groves.

Mr Calverley qualified as a secondary PE teacher in 1976 and started his career teaching in Dewsbury before coming to teach at what is now Clifton Green School in York to cover his wife Jean’s maternity leave.

From there he went on to head the PE department at the former Park Grove Secondary Modern, before going back to primary teaching at Westfield in Acomb and then on to Knavesmire primary.

He left Knavesmire to work for North Yorkshire County Council trying to promote computer use in schools, a job he did for three years before getting the headship at Park Grove, which then had 95 pupils compared to today’s 264.

To many, Mr Calverley will be remembered as the head who guided the school through the years following the dramatic fire of February 1997.

The imposing Grade II listed brick Victorian building was almost destroyed in the fire and at the time it was the biggest blaze in the city since the Minster was struck by lightning in 1984.

Following the fire, staff and parents and the council joined forces to develop a plan to rebuild the school. The pupils were moved to a temporary home at Queen Anne School for two-and-a-half years while the plans were developed.

Mr Calverley said: “For a month to six weeks after the fire it was pretty intense, but I must admit the local authority were very good.

“The fire happened on the Thursday night, Friday morning and we had the children back into a temporary classroom by the Tuesday morning, they really only lost a few day’s school and throughout the whole process only one family left the school.

“Professionally it was very satisfying to have been involved in that process, as I’m sure it is for anybody who has been involved in building a new school.”

Mr Calverley said turning 60 and his wife’s retirement from teaching last year meant that now seemed a good time to step down.

He said he would like to continue to do work in some form helping schools to improve.

He said: “I’d like to put something back into the system so that all that I have learned over the past 20-odd years isn’t lost - but first I’d like to go on holiday with my wife, have time to ride my bike and watch cricket and take my holidays when I want.”

Coun Janet Looker, City of York Council’s cabinet member for education, said: “Andrew has been part of the York education background for many years. He is a well-respected colleague and has made Park Grove into an exciting and creative school.

“Andrew’s interest in the arts and sports has meant that children at Park Grove have had a rich and diverse set of experiences. He is passionate about education and doing the best for all the children at school.

"Last year's KS2 outcomes showed the school to be above all government key performance measures and Park Grove was one of the most highly performing schools in the city, an achievement of which he is – and should be – very proud. We all wish him well for the future.”