THE close-knit connections at a small Wee County school were evident when its headteacher retired last week.

Jess Kemp had been at the helm of Fishcross Primary for five years with a special assembly marking the end of her 36-year teaching career – all of which she spent in Clackmannanshire.

It was an emotional day last Thursday, June 27, when the parent council showered her in gifts with staff and children in attendance.

Reflecting on the past few years at the primary, Jess told the Advertiser: "It's been really good because with a small school you get to know the children and their families really well.

"I do feel a real part of the community, the parents have been so supportive and the children are just wonderful, I'm going to miss them."

She praised the parent council for their support, for instance in raising funds for additional activities.

She added: "They are very active, which is very appreciated by all the staff and the children."

Hailing from Fallin, Jess began her career in Clacks when she started at Banchory Primary in 1983.

Then came Claremont in 1990 before it was amalgamated with St John's to become Redwell in 2014 – a time which marked the beginning of her tenure at Fishcross.

In addition, she also spent a brief spell as acting head at Coalsnaughton.

There had been many changes over the decades, but there was always one guiding principle for the teacher.

She explained: "I think for me it's always been about the children and what's best for them."

Overwhelmed by good wishes, the teacher also paid tribute to the good character of the pupils.

Jess said: "The children raise to every occasion and when we take them out anywhere they are fantastic, well behaved, well mannered.

"There is a real sense of community with the older ones looking out for the younger children and everybody, I think, just feels really valued."

And for the person set to follow in her footsteps, understood to be Mrs Penman who was deputy head at Abercromby Primary in Tullibody, the retiring teacher had some important bits of advice.

Jess said: "Get to know the families. Keep an open door and be approachable."

Among the numerous gifts she received on the day one stood out in the shape of a painting that all students contributed to.

Every child attending in 2019 left their fingerprints on the tree branches (pictured) in an effort to seal that added personal touch.

Kari Smith and Zoe Bradie from the parent council only had praise for the departing head.

Zoe said: "She was always there for you if you had any problems, if you had anything you wanted to talk to her about.

"Good or bad, she was always willing to listen.

"Because we are a small school, she knew us.

"She knew every single family by the name; she knew every single child's name.

"She knew the strengths, the weaknesses, and she was just a brilliant teacher."

Jess is now looking forward to travelling with her husband – especially weekends away to Aviemore – along with walking the dog and spending time outdoors and in her garden.