THE head teacher of a Newport school which is set for a controversial merge with another primary has announced his retirement after 40 years of teaching.

John Webb, who has led Gaer Junior School for almost 30 years, said he has a huge amount of confidence in the merge of the two primary schools despite protests by parents and staff.

Mr Webb, who grew up in Newport, said: “I have been blessed to have had the privilege of meeting so many lovely people. If anyone ever told me they’ve had a better 40 years I would be very surprised.

“We have had a couple of down moments certainly, but other than that it’s been a blast. It’s still the best job in the world. To do a job you love for 40 years is not a sentence, it’s a holiday.”

Teaching assistant Cath Luckett said: “He is fantastic, just like having a father figure here. He’s really understanding and if you have a problem you can ring him anytime day or night. It’s like one big happy family.”

Deb Aherne, nursery nurse at the school, said: “I’ve known him for 26 years. He was my neighbour first and inspired me to go back to college at 30 and get qualifications. Once I got them, there was a job going and now I’ve worked here for 17 years.”

Tasha Rogers, who works in the school office, said: “I’ve worked with him for a long time, about 18 years. He’s made the school feel like a family, we’re really going to miss him”.

It was announced last year Gaer Junior School, on Gaer Road, was to merge with Gaer Infant School despite a fight to preserve both schools.

But Mr Webb said the future of the newly formed Gaer Primary School is looking bright under the new head teacher, Alex Smith, who joins the school from Langstone Primary School.

Mr Webb said: “As soon as the schools meet and have the chance to work with the new head and see the wonderful job he will do, all will be fine.

“I have a huge amount of confidence because of his personality and charisma. He is very caring and has a lovely disposition and relationships are what teaching is about.”

The retiring head said he is looking forward to spending time with his two grandchildren, aged 13 and one, and is eagerly anticipating the birth of his third in October.

He said: “I haven’t been able to spend a lot of time with them but will be able to now.”