AFTER almost 40 years teaching thousands of children in Oxford, Barton headteacher Keith Ponsford took his final bow yesterday.

The Bayards Hill Primary School headteacher said farewell to his pupils at the Waynflete Road school at an emotional leaving assembly.

And it was a complete circle for Mr Ponsford, 62, who began his career at the site as a PE teacher in 1975 when it was Bayswater Middle School.

He said: “I suppose it makes it quite rounded. But there have been a lot of changes during those years, obviously going from three tiers to two of schools, but I think the biggest change has been the effect of the national curriculum across all schools. That has raised standards across the board.

“It certainly is harder these days to be a teacher.”

He added: “I think for me, I am always very proud at the end of every school year when I see the children coming out of Year Six and heading onto secondary school.

“The children will have changed so much during their time here and leave with confidence in their own ability and that makes me so proud.”

Mr Ponsford, who lives with his wife Judith in Wheatley, has taught across the city.

After leaving Bayswater Middle School in 1988, he became headteacher of Marston Middle School until 1996, before heading to Cutteslowe until 2006 and finally back to Bayards Hill.

He said: “I am certainly going to miss the interaction each day with the staff and the children.’’ Chairman of governors Mike Parkinson said: “Keith has made an outstanding contribution to Bayards Hill.

“His commitment to inclusion and constantly improving educational attainment is evident not just within the school but was acknowledged by Ofsted in their last inspection report.

“His constant good humour and respect for all made him an accessible and responsive headteacher.

“He will be missed by everyone associated with the school and he will be difficult to replace.

“The governors want to place on record their appreciation for his hard work and wish him all the best for the future.”

The retirement brings an end to almost a century of Ponsford men working in public services in the county.

Both Mr Ponsford’s father, Stanley, and grandfather, Daniel, worked for the police, with his grandfather going on to be Chief Superintendent of the county constabulary.