JUGGLING work and family has never been an issue for a Tockington head teacher whose career has always been an extension of his private life.

As far as Richard Tovey can remember, the classroom has been an integral part of his childhood as he grew up in the boarding school his father Gordon set up in the village after World War Two.

When he took over the school's headship at the age of 25 in 1975, raising his own children at Tockington Manor, the line between family and vocation remained happily blurred for the next four decades.

As he prepares for retirement at the end of the school year, the 64-year-old told the Gazette that although leaving his home of more than half a century will be extremely sad, he is anxious to broaden his horizons and quite literally see beyond the playground.

The father-of-four said: "When I was a child we lived in the apartment upstairs. It has been my home all my life. It’s a way of life, it’s not a job.

"All the children here are part of the family. We shall miss the kids, the parents and all of it. But we feel it’s the right time to step aside when the school is doing well."

He added: "Initially I think we will be very much looking forward to having a home that’s our home with our own garden. At the moment we live in a bungalow at the back of the school."

He and his wife and work associate Jane were instrumental in turning the school co-ed in 1977.

"As soon as we took over we turned it co-ed," Mr Tovey added. "We opened the pre-prep for four to seven-year-olds and then some years later we opened the nursery. It has been great thrill. We have been very lucky to have a great team of staff around us."

After his teacher training in Oxfordshire, Mr Tovey took his first post at Manorbrook in Thornbury, where he worked for two years.

He then taught near Shrewsbury before becoming head teacher at Tockington, two years after his father retired in 1973. "We have had lots of wonderful times," Mr Tovey said. "We are going to move to Pembrokeshire. I’m sure we will come back to the area in the not too distant future."