Barbara's 36-year experiment ...
IF THERE'S a magic formula for being a perfect school science technician, then Barbara Freeman has certainly worked it out.
For the Downend resident is finally hanging up her lab coat at Bristol Metropolitan Academy after 36 years' exemplary service.
Over the decades, Barbara has become a familiar face to generations of students as they passed through the predecessor schools, Whitefield Fishponds Community School and Bristol Metropolitan College.
Not content with being known for her skills in the prep room, Barbara also took on roles of fire warden, radiation protector supervisor and health and safety rep for the science department.
And as if those weren't enough extra duties, Barbara also had many unofficial jobs such as helping with costumes and refreshments during shows and performances and handing out drinks and cake during sports days.
Barbara started her school career as a dinner lady in 1982 but was intrigued when a job for a science technician came up.
She was encouraged to apply for it by the then-deputy headteacher of Whitefield who happened to live opposite Barbara.
"He encouraged me to apply for it because he saw how well I got on with the children," Barbara said.
"I got the job, which was originally part-time but have been working full-time for at least 30 years. The more I got involved with science, the more I enjoyed it. I can't remember even liking the subject at school, although it wasn't like it is now with all the elaborate equipment!
"It was from then that I started to realise that I really loved the job and I became really passionate about it."
Barbara's hard work paid off when she was promoted to senior science technician in 2002, a position she was delighted and proud to take up.
The 70-year-old was born in Filton, marrying husband John 52 years ago.
The couple moved to Downend where they have now lived for 43 years, bringing up their three sons, Lee, 45, Dale, 43, and Kye, 39.
Barbara was originally a stay-at-home mum but when the boys were older she went to work for British Rail as a punch card and paper tape operator.
"That was before computers came in!" joked Barbara.
But it wasn't until she experienced working in a school that Barbara discovered her true vocation.
"I love the razzmatazz of being around the children. There's always something different going on; no two days are the same. It's always been about the pupils for me and we have some lovely pupils here. If I can help them on their way, then I'm happy.
"My most memorable moments are seeing the children go from Year 7 all scared and afraid to Year 11, when they are all grown up and leave school confident and ready for the world. It's all part of their process in life and it's lovely to see them blossom into a beautiful young lady or a lovely young man.
"Everyone has been so shocked that I've given my notice in after all this time and although I'm sad to be going and will miss the pupils and staff, I think it's my time to go."
Barbara will now be able to spend more time with her grandchildren, Madeline, 12, and Ava, nine, as well as on her hobbies which include gardening, sewing and decorating.
To celebrate her retirement Barbara and John have planned two cruises, one around the British Isles and another in the Caribbean.
Toni Court, head of science at Bristol Metropolitan Academy, said: "Barbara has provided decades of dedicated service to the school, especially the science department. The commitment she has shown to her role has been second to none.
"During more than 30 years of service, Barbara has had a huge impact on generations of children that have attended the academy. She is always willing to support the students, both in lessons and out. She gives them a listening ear and emotional support when they need it.
"We have been truly lucky to have her as a technician at Bristol Metropolitan Academy and we will all miss her greatly as she leaves to enjoy her retirement."