The head teacher who has overseen Ilkley Grammar School’s transformation to an academy is to retire after 12 years in the role.

Gillian James, 60, has announced she is to retire as head of the successful school on Cowpasture Road, following a 38-year teaching career – 19 years of which she has been a head teacher.

Through her tenure at Ilkley School, she has overseen improved standards, the drive for a new school building, conversion to academy status, the implementation of digital learning, and numerous Ofsted inspections.

The school’s maths department was rated ‘outstanding’ at its most recent inspection.

She leaves at the end of this academic year, and the school has already begun its search for a new head.

Mrs James, who marked her 60th birthday over the Christmas holiday, said: “It has not been an easy decision to make: it has been a huge privilege and a great pleasure to have been the head teacher of Ilkley Grammar School.

“I have very much valued the support and challenge of parents and governors, and our involvement in the local community.”

Born in Helensburgh, Scotland, and brought up in Teesside and Tyneside, Mrs James was educated at Dame Allan’s Girls’ School, Newcastle, before reading English at Birmingham University and taking a PGCE at Hughes Hall, Cambridge University.

Teaching first in the Midlands, Mrs James was then deputy head at Calder High School, Mytholmroyd, from 1989-1995, before taking up the headship of 11-16 Church of England High School, Archbishop Temple in Preston and moving on to Ilkley Grammar School in 2002.

She is married and has a son, Thomas, who is now working in London.

A lifelong Newcastle United supporter, Mrs James also enjoys rustling up curries, skiing and jogging.