Tributes were paid to Sylvia Morris in Southwark Cathedral on Sunday morning to mark her retirement as headteacher of the cathedral's primary school in Redcross Way.
"Sylvia, through being such an inspirational leader and teacher, has managed to make Cathedral School – with her staff, governors, parents and some lovely children – what it is today," said Canon Andrew Nunn, acting Dean of Southwark.
"It is in every way a beacon of what a school should be and we thank you, Sylvia, so much for doing that on our behalf.
"The school means a great deal to us – we probably don't say that as often as we should – and it's there at the heart of what we do as a Christian community. You have been a fantastic leader."
Turning to the congregation, Canon Nunn added: "You should know that in Sylvia we have had one of the leading educationalists in this country as head of our school.
"She has been used by so many different groups and schools and bodies to advise on how to be a leader within a school today.
"We all know what a demanding task that is, whether you are leading a primary school, a secondary school or any other kind of school. We expect a lot from our teachers and a great deal more from our headteachers."
Sylvia Morris recalled her first visit to Cathedral School in 1993: "As I drove down Old Kent Road, I thought 'What on earth am I doing coming to SE1?' I had no idea. It was a complete leap of faith."
Miss Morris recalled that the school had lacked stability and continuity when she first arrived. "One of the things the children said to me was 'Are you coming back tomorrow, Miss?' she said.
"I'd never stayed anywhere more than five years in my career as I was making my way up to the dizzy heights of headship.
"I really couldn't walk away and 18 years does seem a very long time. It's been a very fulfilling time, really enriched by the cathedral. I thank God for enabling me to be of service in this community for so long. It's been a real privilege."
Miss Morris's sucessor is Filiz Oguz, presently assistant headteacher.
Canon Bruce Saunders, a member of the school's governing body, also made a presentation to David Harris who has come to the end of his term as the school's chair of governors.