MORE than a century of tradition is coming to an end with the closure of a Catholic convent attached to a North- East primary school.

The convent at St Michael’s Esh Laude RC Primary School, in Esh, County Durham, is to shut later this summer, when Sister Anna Ryan leaves for a new post.

The school is regularly named as one of the best primaries in the country.

In 2007, it was one of only six at which every pupil achieved level four in their key stage two Sats.

It has had a nun as its head for 121 years, with Sister Anna filling the post since 1979.

She moves to become a Parish Sister in Coundon, near Bishop Auckland, in September, having completed her last school day yesterday.

Sister Anna said: “I’ve really enjoyed it. The children are just lovely.

“I’ve been very lucky in that I’ve had fantastic staff and supportive parents and governors.”

Asked about leaving St Michael’s Esh Laude, she said: “I’m not thinking about it.”

The school was established in 1795 – making it the oldest Roman Catholic primary in the Hexham and Newcastle diocese. It now has 169 pupils and ten teachers.

Schooling will continue under the secular leadership of Helen McDaid, a former pupil.

Sister Anna said: “She’s a wonderful person. I’m very happy knowing she’ll be in charge.”

At its peak, the convent was home to five sisters. However, Sister Anna has been its only resident for the past eight years, with the order succumbing to declining numbers.

Several of the convent rooms are already used for school purposes, with the kitchen doubling as a music room.

The Right Reverend Seamus Cunningham, Roman Catholic Bishop of Hexham and Newcastle, celebrated a special Mass with 22 priests in the parish church at Esh Laude last week, before joining about 290 other guests at a parish party in the parish hall.

Sister Anna said: “The singing was superb. The atmosphere was wonderful.”

Born in County Tipperary, Ireland, she moved to England in 1963.

She finished college in 1970 and worked at St Mary’s Secondary School, in Alnwick, Northumberland, for nine years before moving to St Michael’s Esh Laude.