'Amazing' Ipswich primary school cleaner retires after 51 years

Averil Gibbins is retiring after 51 years of service at Whitehouse Community Primary School in Ipswich.

Averil Gibbins is retiring after 51 years of service at Whitehouse Community Primary School in Ipswich. - Credit: Whitehouse Community Primary School

A "devoted" cleaner who is the longest-serving member of staff at an Ipswich primary school will be waving goodbye to jelly and ice cream as she retires after 51 years. 

Averil Gibbins, now 80, became a cleaner at Whitehouse Community Primary School back in November of 1969 and has never left, explaining she finds the job "therapeutic".

Three generations of Mrs Gibbins' family have attended the school in Marlow Road; her two children, seven grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. 

"It's been a lovely 51 years and everyone has been so kind," said Mrs Gibbins, who was brought up in London before moving to Southwold and later Ipswich. 

"The work is very therapeutic and I always feel like I have earnt my money when I finish.

"There's always jelly and ice cream everywhere!"

Mrs Gibbins, whose two children were at the school back in the 60s, said she never applied for the cleaning position.

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She explained: "I was walking with my two children one morning when the caretaker asked me if I knew anyone who would want a job at the school.

"I went home and spoke to my husband and took the job as I wanted to help out."

When she retires on Friday, Mrs Gibbins said she will spend her time being "busy in the garden" at her home in Ipswich, where she lives alone.

She said: "I am sad as I will miss everyone but I have got to be sensible and take things easy. I am so grateful to have my health."

Mrs Gibbins has worked at the school for more than five decades, often cleaning five days a week in the mornings and afternoons.

She said her role has changed massively as she used to just sweep and mop the floors, but following the advances in technology she now uses vacuum cleaners. 

Mrs Gibbins said she will miss the people she sees every day, who she described as a great comfort since the death of her husband 16 years ago.

Mrs Andrea Hall, headteacher at the school, said all the staff will miss Mrs Gibbins, praising the 80-year-old for her remarkable achievement. 

"Averil is an amazing woman who has been cleaning at the school for 51 years," she said. 

"She devotes all her time to the school and is very much part of the team here.

"The school is about every single person who works here, not just those who work inside the classrooms, and she is a huge part of the school. 

"She will be missed by us all."

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